Scouting Rangers Prospect #37: Tomas Telis

Tommy John surgery limited Tomas Telis to a full-time designated hitter role in 2010, but the switch-hitting catcher should be back at full strength in 2011. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the 19-year-old prospect with an in-depth scouting report.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Tomas Telis
Position: Catcher
DOB: June 18, 1991
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 195
Bats: Both
Throws: Right
Acquired: 2007 International Free Agent

When Tomas Telis initially signed with the Texas Rangers for a reported $130,000 during the summer of 2007, he was considered a shortstop. In fact, most professional clubs saw him as a future middle infielder.

"I signed when I was 16 and I was a shortstop," Telis said through a translator during a 2009 interview. "The Yankees, St. Louis, Boston, Colorado, and a couple other teams liked me as a shortstop, but I ended up signing with Texas."

Not long after he signed, Telis reported to the Rangers' Fall Instructional League in Arizona, where he got his first taste of state-side baseball. It's also where he got his first taste of life behind the plate.

"When I came to instructs in 2007, Scott Servais told me, ‘You're not going to play short,' and he gave me a catcher's mitt and told me to throw the other one out."

When Telis signed, he had the body of a middle infielder, standing approximately 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds. But the Rangers believed he would ultimately have a stocky build with a thick lower half––a frame well-suited for catching.

"Scott Servais told me that I have the body of a catcher and that I have a better chance of moving up quicker if they moved me to that position," he said. "They felt like I was going to fill out like a catcher."

Just over three years later, the Rangers appear to be correct. Telis' lower half has gotten thicker with each year, and he now checks in around 5-foot-8 and 200 pounds.

While the Venezuela native spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons developing behind the plate, he was proving to be plenty advanced as a hitter. Playing with the rookie-level Surprise Rangers in '09, Telis posted a .322/.333/.470 slash line with only 15 strikeouts in 192 plate appearances. He finished the campaign with a late-season promotion to Spokane, where he went 8-for-20 with a double and two home runs.

The momentum Telis had gained from his strong '09 campaign was halted in the following offseason, as he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right (throwing) elbow.

"It was definitely disappointing," said catching coach Ryley Westman prior to the 2010 season. "You've got a kid that genuinely comes in and works his tail off. When you've got a guy that really loves the game as much as Telis does, it's obviously disappointing to go through an injury.

"The bright side of that is that it is a guy like Telis, and I have no doubt in my mind that he's going to do everything in his power to go through the recovery process. He's going to get right back out there."

By the time the short-season slate rolled around in 2010, Telis was getting back into game action. Unfortunately, his rehabbing arm limited him to a full-time designated hitter role.

The 19-year-old began last summer as a shell of his former self. His normally excellent bat speed wasn't there and he appeared jumpy at the plate. Through his first 18 contests, Telis was 18-for-74 (.243) with two doubles, three walks, and 14 strikeouts.

Then, during the Arizona League's final month, Telis' bat speed began to return and he found his comfort zone. Over his final 19 games, he went 29-for-70 (.414) with four doubles, a triple, two homers, two walks, and just three strikeouts.

Although Telis' throwing was restricted last season, he was able to work on his receiving skills through various drills. Still, as a prospect that's relatively new to catching, game experience is what he needs most to develop––and that's exactly what his injury prevented last season.

As of Fall Instructional League earlier in the offseason, Telis appeared to be on track for a return to catching in games this spring.

Also See: Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Ryley Westman (February 16, 2010)
Rangers Instructional League Notes (September 21, 2010)

Prospect Videos:

Tomas Telis 2010 reel from Jason Cole on Vimeo.

Batting and Power: The switch-hitting Telis has a mature swing from both sides of the plate, though he's currently more advanced as a left-handed hitter. Despite an extremely aggressive approach, his excellent hand-eye coordination and bat control allow him to barrel the ball with consistency. Telis will need to become a bit more selective as he climbs the ladder. The Venezuela native doesn't walk much, but his hit tool has plus potential. With slight lift in his swing and strong, quick hands, Telis projects for future average to solid-average power.

Telis was clearly affected by the Tommy John surgery early last season, as his bat was slowed and he looked generally uncomfortable at the plate. He was making weak contact and whiffing at a much higher rate than normal. The bat speed returned later in the summer, and he finished the 2010 campaign by going 29-for-70 (.414) with seven extra-base hits, two walks, and just three strikeouts.

Base Running and Speed: Telis is gradually losing speed as his body––his lower half in particular––continues to fill out. As a finished product, Telis projects as a below-average runner, though he'll be far from a base clogger and should have passable speed and athleticism for a catcher.

Defense: Telis has the tools for success behind the plate, possessing plus arm strength, quick feet, and sure hands. It remains to be seen how the surgery will affect his arm strength, if at all. Prior to surgery, the prospect posted the occasional sub-2.0 pop time, but he's still refining his raw mechanics and receiving skills. Telis threw out 13-of-67 (19%) attempted base stealers with the rookie-level Surprise Rangers in '09.

Because he's much more advanced with the bat than the glove, Telis' Tommy John surgery was a definite setback. Though he was able to swing the bat in games over the summer, he was limited to a DH role and largely lost a year of development in the field. At this point, it's too early to tell whether he'll become passable behind the plate. He has a long way to go, but he also has the necessary tools for success.

Projection: The dilemma with Telis is as follows––if he ultimately can't stick behind the plate, his stocky 5-foot-8 frame probably won't play at any other position around the diamond. On the plus side, he's still just 19 years old and has plenty of time to develop. If Telis becomes a passable defender, he could potentially carve out a career as an everyday player. If not, his bat may still get him to the big leagues, though in a more limited role.

2011 Outlook: While Telis' offensive game is likely polished enough to handle full-season ball in 2011, he remains raw behind the plate and is still relatively new to the position. As he sees game action at catcher for the first time since '09, Telis should begin the year in Extended Spring Training before joining short-season Spokane around mid-June. If he performs well with the Indians, he could get a late-season look at Single-A Hickory.

ETA: 2014.

2008 DSL Rangers (DSL) .299 234 14 1 36 44 10/11 25 16 .374 .380
2009 AZL Rangers (RK) .322 46 11 2 28 30 8/9 4 15 .333 .470
Spokane (SSA) .400 20 1 2 2 4 0/0 0 4 .400 .750
2010 AZL Rangers (RK) .326 144 7 2 35 22 4/5 6 16 .351 .431

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