It was a year ago on July 6th when the Milwaukee Brewers traded RHP Bowden Francis and RHP Trevor Richards for 1B Rowdy Tellez, and what a move it’s been. In that year, Rowdy has played in 134 games and has established himself as one of the best sluggers in the Brewers lineup.
Overall, the numbers show it hasn’t been too bad for a year’s work for Rowdy.
Rowdy Tellez has had a big impact in the Brewers lineup thus far, so let’s look at the first base slugger’s year-in-review starting with what led to the deal itself.
On June 23rd, 2021 the Brewers placed lefty first baseman Daniel Vogelbach on the injured list with a hamstring strain, so Keston Hiura was recalled from the Nashville Sounds as a temporary replacement. Hiura hit pretty well in that stretch, but with him struggling overall on the year, the Brewers knew there was an opportunity for an upgrade, and the Toronto Blue Jays had just the guy.
The Blue Jays had a crowded group of first basemen and designated hitters, and Rowdy Tellez was struggling most at the plate. In 50 games for Toronto last season, Tellez was slashing .209/.272/.338 for a .610 OPS, had only four home runs, and struck out 33 times. Rowdy was the odd man out and demoted to Triple-A, and the Brewers made the call for a change of scenery for Tellez, and it has proven to be a good one.
Milwaukee seemed to be just the change that Tellez was looking for. In the 56 games that Tellez played for the Brewers last year, he had improved his slash line to .272/.333/.481 with an OPS of .814.
Tellez had a power surge when he moved to Milwaukee, which is reflected in his ISO increase- a value of .209 last season with the Brewers compared to .129 with Toronto (ISO is a measure of raw power, only considering extra-base hits and the type of extra base hit).
Rowdy has continued to be the slugger that he showed he was with the Brewers last season. 79 games into this 2022 season, Tellez ranks very well on multiple indicators of high-quality and meaningful contact. He finds himself in the 85th percentile in average exit velocity, 95th percentile in expected ISO, 91st percentile in expected slugging percentage, 77th percentile in hard hit rate (the percentage of balls hit 95MPH or more), and the 86th percentile in barrel rate.
When he connects, the ball is flying off the bat. It is very important for good offensive teams to have that sort of pop in the heart of their lineup, and Rowdy provides that for the Brewers. He leads the team this season in home runs at 17 and ranks 4th on the team in WRC+ at 120.
What is even more fascinating are his splits at home. Tellez has thrived in his new ballpark at American Family Field. This season he has an OPS of 1.028 at home- which is good for 5th in the entire league. Rowdy also ranks 6th in the Majors in both wOBA and WRC+ at home.
The move from the Rodgers Centre to American Family Field has appeared to be a good one for Tellez: he just needs the support around him and for the team to get healthy. Of Brewers with a minimum of 90 plate appearances, Renfroe is second in home OPS (.870) and Tyrone Taylor is third (.787); however, both players are on the IL at the moment.
Tellez has also been solid with runners in scoring position as well. In 70 plate appearances, he is getting on base at a clip of .414, slugging .672, and has 33 RBIs (his OPS of 1.086 puts him at 11th in the entire league of those with a minimum of 40 plate appearances). Rowdy appears to be a more comfortable and well-rounded batter, and there could be a couple of reasons for that. His year over year changes in quality of contact improved, along with his plate discipline.
Tellez is getting the ball in the air more, generating more quality contact, and swinging at more quality strikes when compared to last season. He has lowered his ground ball rate from 2021. His barrel rate, wOBA, xwOBA, SLG, and xSLG are all up from last season—in other words, Rowdy is making more powerful and valuable contact.
But the most impressive improvement I have noticed is Rowdy’s ability to see pitches better. Whether it is him simply getting more comfortable at the plate, or just really thriving on that massive American Family Field batters’ eye, his walk rate is up 1.8% from last season. In addition, his first pitch swing rate is down 5.5%, out of zone swing rate is down 5.2%, and his overall swing rate is down 4.3%. He is being more patient at the plate, and it is paying off.
And of course, leave it to Rowdy to tie a Brewers franchise record the day before his trade anniversary- and it was a good one at that.
He has not recorded a hit since the home run, so the streak is still alive.
Rowdy Tellez has found a new home in Milwaukee, and the city and fans have embraced him from the moment he got here. It didn’t take long for him to become a fan favorite, sparking chants of “ROW-DY, ROW-DY” just a couple of days after he was traded to the Brewers. One year later, and the two-syllable chant for the first baseman continues to carry through American Family Field.
Tellez has established himself in the heart of the Brewer’s lineup as one of their most dangerous bats, and he aims to continue his momentum into the second half of the season.