Coming into spring training it was clear to everyone that the Toronto Blue Jays didn’t have a primary option at first base. Early on, all of the talk surrounded the confidence level the Blue Jays had in Justin Smoak. The team seemed to have a lot of faith that he would be able to secure his position as the team’s primary option, while the fans and media believed that Smoak would end up being a DFA candidate by the end of spring training.
Toronto Blue Jays First Base Dilemma
Mid-way through camp it appears the latter is proving to be the case. Smoak has been awful (10 strikeouts in 27 at-bats) and the Blue Jays are frantically searching for options. Steve Pearce can get reps at first base, but then the Jays will have a left field platoon of Ezequiel Carrera and Melvin Upton, which is also worrisome. So the question begins to revolve around the Major League readiness of Rowdy Tellez.
So far in the spring, Tellez has performed well, hitting .269 and flashing excellent on-base skills with an OBP nearing .400. He has also just missed several times, and has battled deep into counts even when recording outs. Without a doubt, Tellez is the future of this team at first base. The question now is how soon does the future begin with the big club?
Based off of spring performances of all possible candidates, Tellez seems to be the logical choice. The 22 year-old Tellez, like all young players, will experience bumps and bruises along the road, but he has the ability to become a cog in the middle of Blue Jays lineup for many years to come. Additionally, his left-handed power bat and strike-zone awareness would be a welcome addition to a predominantly right-handed hitting lineup.
Right now, the Blue Jays lineup would look like this:
This is a lineup, when healthy, that is one of the more balanced in baseball, despite the loss of Edwin Encarnacion. It also has the veteran presence where a young player like Tellez would own a less primary spot in the lineup. He would be able to grow and develop with little pressure on his shoulders.
So the possibility remains that Toronto will begin the season with Justin Smoak at first base. However, with his track record, and at 30 years old, not having the “potential” label attached, it is likely only a matter of time until the Tellez era begins in Toronto in 2017.