Blue Jays prospects Tellez, Rios excelling in winter leagues

The Toronto Blue Jays have 23 players participating in fall and winter leagues this off-season

Fall and winter leagues are a cornerstone of prospect development. The Arizona Fall League is the most common destination for prospects, and the Blue Jays have sent nine players there this off-season.

Players can be given an extended season for a variety of reasons. Anthony Alford represents the quintessential case of a player in need of all the reps he can get. Conner Greene embodies the prospect that needs some final tinkering after a difficult season. Ryan McBroom is the fringe prospect looking to fall on the right side of the line between being a major-league player and career minor-leaguer.

Several of those AFL players were highlighted here just over one week ago. Today, we look to the Liga de Beisbol Dominicano (Dominican Winter League) and Liga Mexicana del Pacifico (Mexican Pacific League).

1B Rowdy Tellez  –  Estrellas de Oriente
Liga de Beisbol Dominicano

Tellez has appeared in 12 games, going 9-for-34 (.265 AVG) with a very strong strikeout-to-walk ratio (8 BB, 9 K). That’s good for a .405 on-base percentage as Tellez continues to showcase his above-average plate approach while being challenged with unfamiliar pitchers.

He’s added two home runs, a double, and four RBI to build on a strong 2016. Tellez hit 23 home runs with the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats with a .917 OPS to solidify himself as a top first-base prospect league-wide. His defensive ability will help to determine how quickly he pushes for an MLB roster spot, but with an MLB need at the position (for now) and a great deal of momentum, Tellez continues to help his case in the Dominican.

SS Richard Urena  –  Gigantes del Cibao
Liga de Beisbol Dominicano

The 20-year-old Urena stepped forward in 2016 and is considered among the Blue Jays top-five prospects by some rankings. The Dominican game hasn’t been as kind to him, however, as Urena has gone 9-for-45 (.200 AVG) over 11 games. Ten strikeouts and zero walks don’t create a terribly encouraging stat line, but Urena does remain a relatively raw prospect.

After finding some sustained success as a member of the advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays where he hit .305 with eight home runs over 97 games, Urena’s production slightly tailed off after being promoted to the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats for 30 games. He remains the Jays’ top shortstop prospect for a reason, however, and could really entrench himself as a top-5 name in the system if his tools continue to flash in 2017.

RHP Francisco Rios  –  Tomateros de Culiacan
Liga Mexicana del Pacifico

Rios broke through in 2016 after a few sub-par seasons to begin his career in the Blue Jays system. The 21-year-old Mexican right-hander works a nice fastball-slider combination with velocity that tops out around 92 MPH. With single-A Lansing, Rios posted a 2.10 ERA over six starts that included 43 strikeouts in just 30 innings. After moving up to advanced-A Dunedin Rios did see his numbers slightly regress, but still produced a nice 3.67 ERA ERA over 90.2 innings at that level.

His time back in Mexico has gone very well. Rios has made 10 appearances (10.2 IP) and allowed just one run on six hits, striking out four with one walk. He doesn’t get the same spotlight as a Greene or Sean Reid-Foley, but Rios is a valuable organizational piece with upside remaining as he develops.

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