Scouting Rangers Prospect #34: Tomas Telis

Tomas Telis had an excellent debut season with the DSL Rangers in 2008, batting .299 despite being just 16-years-old on opening day. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the catcher with a feature article and an in-depth scouting report.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Tomas Telis
Position: Catcher
DOB: June 18, 1991
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 175
Bats: Both
Throws: Right

The Rangers signed Tomas Telis as a 16-year-old international free agent during the summer of 2007. The Venezuelan, who received a $140,000 bonus, didn't wait long before impressing club officials in the U.S.

Telis played well at the Rangers' Fall Instructional League in 2007, and he made his professional debut with the Dominican Summer League Rangers the following summer.

With the DSL club, Telis batted .299 with 14 doubles, one triple, and one home run. He was particularly hot after the DSL All-Star Game, batting .363 with four doubles, six walks, and just four strikeouts in 80 at-bats.

Last summer, Lone Star Dugout sat down for a Q&A with Telis' DSL manager, Jayce Tingler. The following is an except from the interview, which is linked below.

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Jason Cole: I'd like to talk about Tomas Telis for a second. Obviously he is having a great season. Can you talk about what went into the decision to move him from shortstop to behind the plate as a catcher?

Tingler: That was A.J. Preller and Manny Batista. 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. 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. In their credit, they got him into instructs last year, where he got to learn from the best coaches over there. He got introduced to catching and we got him down here in January – January 20th and that was his new deal. He was going to be a catcher.

He has taken it very well. His hands are tremendous. We have a great catching instructor down here – Oscar Bernard – who works with our catchers. It has just really come along great, his defense. He has always been a guy that has hit. I don't think we expected him to hit this good. I've never seen a 17-year-old be able to put the bat on the ball as much as this kid. The bat is there and the defense has just come along great. He has just really been good for us.

Cole: He's a switch-hitter, is that correct?

Tingler: Yeah, he is.

Cole: Which side is his natural side, if he really has one?

Tingler: His natural side is right-handed, but most of his at-bats are from the left side facing right-handed pitching. Talking to him, I'd say he's probably more comfortable now from the left side of the plate.

Cole: From looking at his numbers, he hits .196 from the right side and .343 from the left. Is there a reason that he has gotten so good from the left side?

Tingler: I think just probably the fact that we're facing a lot of right-handed pitching. I think that's where most of his at-bats are coming from. I think he's just getting into a groove. He's not a bad right-handed hitter. Those stats – it's .196 – but I don't know how many at-bats he's had over there. It is certainly not a disadvantage for us to have him at the right side of the plate when the game is on the line late in the game.

Cole: He is a fairly small guy, at least according to what is listed. Do you expect him to develop some more home run power as he gets a little older and fills out physically?

Tingler: Yeah, I do. He has got tremendous gap-to-gap power right now. He did pop one home run a couple of weeks ago, but I think that's going to develop. I don't know what your stat thing has on his weight. I believe when we got him, we had him at 5-foot-8, 174.

We put our kids on a strict lifting program somewhat like a 16- or 17-year-old would be doing in the states. You know how a lot of the football coaches have them in the weight room. Well, we put him on the same thing. He's up to 205 now. He's a strong kid.

Cole: It seems that, from looking at his numbers and from what you have said, he is a pretty advanced guy for his age. Is he a guy that would be at least in consideration to move to Spokane next season and skip the AZL, kind of like what Martin Perez has done this year?

Tingler: That will be a decision with Scott Servais and those guys, but I would think Telis – what he's shown us down here this year – I certainly wouldn't think that would not be an option. But that's going to depend on a lot of guys in front of him and what happens up there. I feel very comfortable with him handling any situation that the Rangers put ahead of him.

Also See: Texas Rangers Top 50 Prospects (November 11, 2008)

Batting and Power: Between recent high-profile Latin American signees like Johan Yan and Emmanuel Solis, Rangers fans are used to waiting for a young player's offensive game to develop. But that's not the case with Telis, who is mature well beyond his years at the plate.

Playing in the Dominican Summer League as a 16-year-old last summer, Telis had 25 walks while fanning just 16 times in 234 at-bats. He displayed phenomenal strike zone discipline [especially when compared to most Latin American players his age] and has great hand-eye coordination.

Telis, who entered the Rangers' system at 5-foot-8, 174-pounds, has already put on roughly 30 pounds since joining the organization. The physical development is visible, and it's also beginning to be apparent at the plate. The backstop has solid gap power right now, and while he'll likely never be a home run-hitting monster, he should knock his fair share over the fence in time.

The switch-hitting Telis is a natural right-handed hitter, but it would be difficult to tell from the statistics. Shortly after the Rangers' 2007 Fall Instructional League, hitting coordinator Mike Boulanger said Telis was a much better hitter from the right side. But he batted .341 left-handed last summer and just .172 as a righty. DSL Rangers manger Jayce Tingler believes Telis is still a very good right-handed hitter, but he's also more comfortable from the left side at this point.

Base Running and Speed: In general baseball terms, Telis' speed is about average. When referring to him as a catcher, Telis has above-average speed. One reason the Rangers moved Telis behind the plate was because they weren't sure if he would have enough speed to play shortstop. But the Venezuela native is very speedy and athletic for a backstop, and he used those skills to swipe 10 bases in 11 attempts with the DSL Rangers last summer. He is expected to lose some speed as his body continues to fill out, but as long as he's behind the plate, he'll be an above-average runner for the position.

Defense: Telis' skills behind the plate are very raw, but that's understandable considering he was playing shortstop just over a year ago. His footwork, receiving, and game calling are all in the developmental stages right now, but he does have the tools, including great hands and a very strong arm. Telis' arm is one of the reasons the Rangers liked him more as a backstop than a shortstop.

Because catching is so new to Telis, it is far too early to judge his defensive performance. With that said, he threw out over 31% of attempted basestealers in the DSL last summer, which isn't a bad number for someone who had only been behind the plate for a few months. According to the early returns, it's looking like – over time – Telis should become at least average behind the plate.

Projection: Telis is further away from the majors than any player on this top 50 list, so it's difficult to even give him a ceiling. With his raw skill set both offensively and defensively, the 17-year-old has the talent to become an excellent everyday Major League catcher. He also has quite a bit more athletic ability than most catchers – and while he'll likely lose some athleticism and speed while filling out – he should always remain well-above-average for the position.

2009 Outlook: The Rangers have a couple of legitimate options for Telis in 2009, and both involve him seeing his first official action in the U.S. Telis has been at Fall Instructional League each of the past two years, but he hasn't played in a regular season minor league game in the states.

Last season, Martin Perez was a similarly polished, similarly aged prospect. Perez skipped the DSL – which Telis did not do – but he also skipped the rookie-level AZL as well, going directly to short-season Spokane. Telis could follow the same fate, but it's just as likely that the Rangers will put him in the Arizona League. The Rangers may not make a final decision on Telis until well into extended spring training.

ETA:2013.

Year Team AVG AB 2B HR RBI R SB BB SO OBP SLG
2008 DSL Rangers (DSL) .299 234 14 1 36 44 10 25 16 .374 .380

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