Let's take a moment to talk catchers. 1)I love them 2)I covet them more than anything- including starting pitchers and 3) no one has enough. So throw Tomas into the mix. Recently promoted to AAA, the 5'8" 200lb Venezuelan fireplug has had a fantastic 2014. After hitting .303/.339/.401 through 70 games in Frisco, Tomas was asked to make the drive down 35 just after his 23rd birthday. Tomas (toe-MAS tuh-LEES) has improved all facets of his game this season and now it's time for the club to make a decision on him. Telly began playing stateside ball with Spokane in 2009, so he'll be eligible for free agency after the 2014 season, and as a young, switch hitting catcher, he wouldn't last long on the open market. 40-man addition? Sign a free agent contract with Texas? Possibilities, all. I have no idea which is more likely, but I do know how Tomas plays, so let's talk about that.
Tomas has always shown good bat-to-ball skills from both sides of the plate. He starts with a crouched, wide open stance and gently swings his front leg towards the pitcher as he begins his motion. With almost 2,300 MiLB plate appearances under his belt, it's safe to say his .288/.323/.394 career slash line is fairly indicative of the type of hitter he is. 28 career homers (11 of which came in his season with Hickory) tells you there ain't a lot of pop in the stick. He hits a little better from the left side and has a bit more power from that side as well. He puts the ball in play though, that's for sure. If you're in the hardcore strikeout aversion category, you're gonna like Tomas. A career K percentage under 10%, combined with a BB percentage under 4% says he's there to put the bat on the ball. He's a slightly below average runner when compared to other baseball humans, an above average runner when compared to other "catcher" humans, and a way above average runner when compared to other 5'8" 200lb+ humans. He looked chubbier to me at the end of 2013 than he has this season, and that my friends is scouting.
Defensively, Tomas has looked sharper in 2014 as well. He just seems to be working on his defense more. Perhaps it was his time this offseason playing catcher (along with Robinson Chirinos) for mighty Magallanes back home in Venezuela, that ignited his work ethic as a backstop. He's definitely improved. Consistently putting up ~2.0-ish pop times, what he lacks in arm strength, he makes up for with extremely quick feet and a quick release. I had a chance to chat with one of the Rangers' roving catching instructors, Ryley Westman, about some of Tomas' improvement behind the plate and the club has certainly taken notice of his renewed commitment. A lot of the improvement has come from positioning, as Tomas cheats a bit with runners on base. You can often see his right foot drift back a bit and he'll raise out of his crouch a tad early while keeping an eye on the bases. That's all fine and dandy if you still maintain a consistent target for the pitcher and to my knowledge (I've asked a couple Frisco pitchers), Tomas manages to do that. Westman mentioned Tomas had also improved his motion coming out of the crouch as well. Where as he'd formerly popped nearly straight up, he's now doing a better job of using his weight and getting his body moving forward and up as he throws-- if that makes any sense without the aid of me physically showing you what the hell I'm talking about. He threw out 29% of would-be base stealers in Frisco, and that digit is consistent with his career numbers.
Most scouts I've spoken with see him as a potential MLB backup, a few see a possible Role 5 catcher, and a few see a AAAA player. Regardless of the projection from outside of the organization, it remains to be seen how the Rangers themselves feel about Tomas. In what promises to be a compelling winter of roster decisions for the big club, add Tomas Telis' name to the list.