J.P. Arencibia and Geovany Soto entered the season as the Texas Rangers’ co-starting catchers. But as they shared the spotlight of infamy, Soto with his injury, Arencibia with his struggles to post an on base percentage above the Mendoza line, Tomas Telis did nothing but hit.
Through 70 games in Double-A Frisco, the 23 year old backstop quietly hit .303 and slugged .401, and when the Rangers promoted him to Triple-A Round Rock, he went on a tear, hitting .345 with 3 home runs over 139 at bats. Since August 15, Telis has a .406 average and a 1.016 OPS.
Now the unassuming Venezuelan – he stands just 5 feet, 8 inches tall – will get a chance to step in a batter’s box beneath the bright lights of a major league stadium. With Soto shipped off to Oakland, the Rangers have promoted Tomas Telis to the major league club for tomorrow night’s contest against the Mariners at Safeco Field, according to ESPN Dallas’s Calvin Watkins.
Talis will vie for time with de facto starting catcher Robinson Chirinos, though considering Chirinos’s on base percentage (.271), age (30), and big league experience prior to 2014 (90 plate appearances), it shouldn’t be hard for the rookie to carve out playing time if he proves he can handle big league pitching.
Down the line, however, Chirinos won’t be Talis’s main competition for playing time. That would be Jorge Alfaro.
The 21 year old Alfaro is considered by both Baseball America and MLB.com to be the Rangers’ best prospect not named Joey Gallo, 45th overall in the game per BA, #33 per MLB.com. In 2009 he received a 1.3 million dollar signing bonus out of Colombia thanks to his plus power and plus arm, and while he is still raw both at the plate and behind it, his all star potential is starting to show. Through 116 games this year between Advanced and Double-A, he has 16 home runs and a .263 batting average.
Telis, by contrast, is considered by most to have the realistic potential of a back up catcher. The rookie has a much higher floor than Alfaro, though.
His David Eckstein-like strikeout rate – 9.2% this season, right in line with his minor league career average – should allow him to continue to hit for a decent average, even if the walks and home runs.
In the field, Telis lacks Alfaro’s gold glove caliber arm, but right now, he is a far more trustworthy defender. Talis allowed just three passed balls all season in the minors. Alfaro has five so far in double-A, through just 11 games.
The ETA on Alfaro is 2016, and even the most optimistic of projections don’t have him in the majors until the end of next season. Telis can get more than a year to prove his mettle, but first he has to prove over the next thirty three games.