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Blue Jays in AFL: Tellez leads way with bat

Rowdy Tellez is eager to prove he's more than just a power hitter.

A 30th-round Draft pick in 2013 out of Elk Grove (Calif.) High, Tellez made strides at the plate in 2014 between the Rookie-level Appalachian League and the Class A Midwest League, setting the stage for what would be a breakthrough campaign this past season.

Tellez opened the season back at Class A Lansing of the Midwest League, where he batted .296/.351/.444 with seven home runs and 19 doubles in 68 games, earning a promotion to Class A Advanced Dunedin in late June. The 20-year-old first baseman continued to thrive in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League despite being one of its youngest everyday players. In 35 games for Dunedin, Tellez posted an impressive .275/.338/.473 batting line with seven more home runs and 28 RBIs.

Overall, the Blue Jays' No. 7 prospect batted .289/.347/.454 and set career highs with 14 home runs, 24 doubles and 77 RBIs in 103 games between both stops.

Tellez attributes having a more refined approach for his success this past season. A big part of that, he says, had to do with him feeling comfortable even when behind in the count.

"I felt like that's what helped me tap into my power when I got to Dunedin," said the 6-foot-4, 245-pound left-handed hitter. "Hitting in two-strike counts doesn't affect me; it's not something I worry about."

"Just watching guys like Anthony Rizzo," Tellez continued, "he really put that two-strike approach into effect this year, where he takes out his leg kick and makes a stride. I think that's really helped me with seeing pitches, even in hitters' counts."

The Blue Jays clearly liked what they saw in Tellez this year -- so much so that the organization decided to send him to the Arizona Fall League to hone his game against some of the top players in the Minor Leagues.

"It means a great deal to me," Tellez said about his selection to play in the prestigious Fall League. "It just shows what they think of me that they want me to keep progressing as a player out here."

Progress is precisely what Tellez has done this fall. Headed into Friday, the first baseman was batting .288/.321/.500 through 13 games for Salt River, and he either leads the team or owns a share of the lead in numerous offensive categories including hits (15), home runs (three) and RBIs (13).

Tellez is also focusing on improving his defense in the Fall League. In addition to his endless reps before games and ongoing work with the coaching staff, Tellez credits teammate and longtime friend Dominic Smith for his development at the position.

"He's really smooth over at first base," said Tellez about Smith, "and that's something I've been working on for a while. I strive to be a Gold Glover -- that's my goal on defense -- and he can help me with that. Watching him make plays over there is really nice and fun to watch. It's a learning experience playing with him."

Blue Jays pitchers in the Fall League

Brady Dragmire, RHP -- The 2011 17th-rounder got a late start to the season and then struggled to throw quality strikes during his time at Dunedin. The 22-year-old right-hander features a low-90s fastball, which he pairs with a breaking ball in the 81-84 mph range.

Jeremy Gabryszwski, RHP -- A second-round Draft pick in 2011, Gabryszwski, 22, has a feel for mixing three pitches and pitching to both sides of the plate. However, the fact that he lacks a standout offering makes him rely heavily on command and limits his margin for error.

Chad Girodo, RHP -- The 24-year-old lefty jumped on the fast track to the Major Leagues this past season, posting a 1.34 ERA and a 58/9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 60 1/3 innings combined at Dunedin, Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo.

Justin Shafer, RHP -- The 2014 eighth-rounder pitched well as a swingman this past season at Lansing, but he struggled in the role after moving up to the Florida State League. Shafer, who operates in the low 90s with his fastball, has fared well in the Fall League, however, posting a 1.29 ERA with eight strikeouts in seven innings for the Rafters.

Blue Jays hitters in the Fall League

Roemon Fields, OF -- Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2013, Fields, the Blue Jays' No. 22 prospect, saw his stock take off this past season as he reached the Double- and Triple-A levels for the first time in his career. He's continued to open eyes with his 70-grade speed (on the 20-80 scouting scale) on both sides of the ball in the Fall League while also exhibiting more patience at the plate.

Emilio Guerrero, 3B -- The 6-foot-4, 189-pounder struggled this year between Dunedin and New Hampshire but improved his defensive versatility by playing center and right field to go along with his usual work at third base and shortstop. After a slow start to the Fall League, the 23-year-old has picked up the pace of late and now owns a respectable .250/.302/.400 batting line through 11 games.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.
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