Scouting Rangers Prospect #32: Tomas Telis

Switch-hitting catcher Tomas Telis batted .297 while showing some gap-to-gap power with Single-A Hickory last season. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the 20-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

One of the more intriguing pure hitters in the Texas Rangers' system, Tomas Telis has produced strong numbers at each rung of the organizational ladder thus far.

The Venezuela native initially signed with the Rangers on July 2, 2007, for a reported $140,000 bonus. At that time, Telis was a 5-foot-8 shortstop whom the club was looking to move behind the plate.

In an interview from the summer of 2008, then-Dominican Summer League Rangers manager Jayce Tingler said the organization felt Telis' body was likely to get a bit thick as he developed.

"That was A.J. Preller and Manny Batista," Tingler said of the decision in 2008. "They saw this kid as a shortstop over in Venezuela. In their opinion, he could really swing the bat, which he has done this summer ('08).

"They didn't know if he was going to be able to run enough to really make an impact playing in the states. He has tremendous hands and they said they were going to try this kid out at catcher."

More than three years later, Preller and Batista appear to have been correct. While Telis hasn't grown to be particularly large, he's now listed at 5-foot-8, 195 pounds. Telis has a strong, thick lower half that is well-suited for playing behind the plate.

Telis' catching remains a work in progress. He missed a year of development in 2010 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Though he wasn't able to catch that season, he did appear in 37 contests as a designated hitter for the rookie-level Surprise Rangers.

Because of the right elbow injury, Telis ended up playing two years in the rookie Arizona League. He posted excellent offensive numbers both times. In '09, the prospect hit .322/.333/.470 before earning a late-summer promotion to short-season Spokane. The following year, he posted a .326/.351/.431 slash line.

Telis actually got out to a slow start offensively in 2010, as his bat speed was slow to return coming off the Tommy John surgery. But he finished hot and ended with excellent numbers.

Rangers' roving hitting coach Luis Ortiz says Telis' bat speed returned not only when he got fully healthy, but also when he began to trust himself again.

"It was like anybody that gets hurt for the first time––especially after a long layover like that," Ortiz said. "You're going to be cautious, you're going to be a little bit careful, and you don't want to push it and maybe hurt it again because you've already been out for 12 months. So I think that is what happened with Telis at the beginning. Now, you don't even notice that he had surgery."

There appeared to be no lingering effects from the surgery or injury in general last season when Telis played at Single-A Hickory. Appearing in 115 games for the Crawdads, he batted .297/.329/.430 with 28 doubles and 11 home runs.

Telis' excellent hand-eye coordination and contact ability is one of his best natural skills as a hitter. With a highly aggressive approach, Telis doesn't walk much, but he also rarely strikes out.

Ortiz believes the hand-eye coordination can work as sort of a blessing and a curse for young players like Telis.

"It really is (a blessing and a curse)," he said. "Because he really thinks he can hit anything. But he's starting to understand, too, that when he stays within his area of strength, he can become more productive. Because he will get some hits that way––and that's why he kept doing it. If he had bad feedback from swinging at bad pitches, he wouldn't be doing it as much.

"But he is so gifted as far as his bat control and hand-eye coordination that he was able to do things that other people would marvel about."

Ortiz, who worked with Telis at times in Hickory last season, says he's starting to see some improvement in the prospect's plate approach.

"I think he is learning to get ahead in the count and take advantage of those pitches," he said. "He has done great. It has been really a––not a surprise, because we always knew that he can hit––but he is putting it all together now. The catching is better, the throwing is better. And that was a big doubt. It has been fun watching him develop, for sure."

Former (and current Double-A Frisco) Hickory hitting instructor Jason Hart echoed Ortiz's sentiments about Telis' approach in an interview from last summer.

"You just stay out of Tommy's way––let him get up there," Hart said. "We don't talk mechanics at all. When he's going good, his zone discipline is better, but he can still hit that pitch off the ground and into the gap. He has improved––to me––just in the small things of the game. Today, he had a sac bunt. He's doing little things like that to develop his game at the plate."

As Hart mentioned, Telis is a fundamentally sound hitter despite his young age. The switch-hitting prospect has quick hands and a relatively short path to the ball, helping him make contact at a very high rate.

Prospect Video:

Tomas Telis 2010 reel (best viewed in full screen and HD).

Also See: Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Luis Ortiz (June 17, 2011)
Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Jason Hart (August 10, 2011)
Rangers Advanced Instructs Notes (September 28, 2011)
Rangers All-Prospect Teams (November 8, 2011)
Rangers 2011 Rule 5 Preview (November 18, 2011)

Batting and Power: The switch-hitting Telis has one of the Rangers organization's most promising hit tools––it's a potential plus asset. He has mature swing mechanics, including a short path to the ball with slight lift, quick hands and strong wrists. Despite a highly aggressive approach, his excellent hand-eye coordination and bat control enables him to barrel the ball with consistency. He's the type of hitter who, as Jason Hart stated in the above feature, can hit balls off the ground for base hits––that's both a positive and a negative. Telis drew only 18 walks in 115 games last season but also whiffed just 35 times.

Telis will have to continue refining his hitting zone as he matures. But he'll likely never walk much at all. However, given his skills, he also probably won't swing and miss often. He projects to become a high-contact player with a good hit tool and fringe average-to-average future power. While most of Telis' current pop is gap-to-gap, he's strong and makes consistent solid contact despite his short frame.

Base Running and Speed: Telis has lost some speed as his body––his torso and lower half in particular––continues to fill out. As a finished product, he projects as a below-average runner, though he probably won't be a base clogger. Telis stole 12 bases in 18 attempts at Hickory last season.

Defense: Telis appeared in 114 total games last season but played only 55 of them behind the plate while splitting time with fellow catching prospect Kellin Deglan. Limited to a DH role in 2010 after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, he was also catching in games for the first time since the '09 campaign.

The Rangers were happy with Telis' improvement behind the plate last season, although he still has lots of development remaining. The 5-foot-8 backstop is fairly agile with an average arm, but his receiving and blocking skills still lag behind. He has the tools to become an average defender and is overall below-average defensively at present––he'll need to continue improving.

Projection: Telis' calling card is his promising offensive skill set, which includes the potential plus hit tool with a little bit of power. He could develop into a legitimate major league-quality bat with time––especially if he further refines his hitting zone. His dilemma 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. He's still young and relatively inexperienced behind the plate, so there's still hope that he'll improve enough. But the questions behind the plate are why he's not considered among the system's top prospects, despite his good offensive potential.

2012 Outlook: After a strong across-the-board performance in the South Atlantic League last season, the 20-year-old will almost definitely break camp with High-A Myrtle Beach in 2012. Telis has the offensive polish necessary to succeed in the pitcher-friendly environment, but his youth and raw defensive game will probably keep him in the Carolina League all season.

ETA: 2015.

2008 DSL Rangers (DSL) .299 234 14 1 36 44 10/11 25 16 .374 .380
2009 AZL Rangers (RK) .322 183 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
2011 Hickory (A) .297 461 28 11 69 67 12/18 18 35 .329 .430

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