Tim Tebow: Stage Set for for Big League Debut?

Tim Tebow is one of the most unique phenomenon in sports history. The Heisman who became a bust. The bust who was forced out of the NFL and into broadcasting. The broadcaster who needed sports so badly he picked up baseball. Striking story! It seems like a modern-day version of a Gladiator quote. I could not imagine anything greater than Tebow’s career having a poetic, Gladiator-esque storybook ending. This would obviously be Tebow getting promoted to the MLB and becoming just another big leaguer. Is this a possible scenario though, or merely a pipe dream? Should his growth as a hitter and outfielder continue, a September call-up when rosters expand may not be out of the question. It won’t happen this year, probably not even next year. But some day, if the Mets are out of playoff contention by September, the value from the publicity stunt will simply be too great to ignore.

A minor leaguer interviewed for this blog who faced Tebow while at Columbia was quoted as saying “He hustles while on the field, but he still looks like a football player. A lot of his actions are stiff especially when he throws. He has a lot of power which you can see in batting practice but his swing is long and stiff right now.”  This indicates that Tebow is easy to beat on inside fastballs right now, and baserunners are not afraid to challenge his arm from the outfield.

Looking at Tebow’s stats with the Class A Columbia Fireflies of the Mets, it would appear that it was merely a pipe dream. Tebow batted .220 with only 3 HRs and 23 RBIs through 64 games and 214 ABs. Tebow was also striking out 29% of ABs which is widely considered as terrible. But for some reason, GM Sandy Alderson decided this play was worthy enough of a promotion to High A St. Lucie. Alderson claims it was because of advanced metrics, such as his chase rates and exit velocities drastically improving since he first began the season. These statistics generally indicate a higher batting average, which Alderson hopes will follow soon for Tebow. He also mentions that Tebow’s OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) is twice as high at home as it is on the road, so playing at St. Lucie should bring added comfort and production for Tebow.

These reasons all seem like ways to confuse the common fan and use stats they do not understand to avoid questions regarding the true motives behind the promotion. Tim Tebow makes the Mets a lot of money. Darren Rovell of ESPN reported a 30% increase in attendance so far this season for Columbia, and attendances double the norm for road games. This weekend, the Florida Fire Frogs are taking the Tebow experience so far as to sell $50 souvenir bottles of dirt from home plate where Tebow will stand.

The New York Mets own the St. Lucie Mets, unlike the Columbia Fireflies. This means all this additional revenue that Tebow brings in from ticket sales and marketing promotions will flow directly into the pockets of the Mets organization, instead of being split between the Mets and the Fireflies.

However, whatever the real reasons for the promotion might be, Tebow has made the most of his opportunity. Through 22 games and 72 ABs with the St. Lucie Mets, Tebow has batted .306 and seen his slugging percentage increase from a mere .336 to .514. He has managed to maintain an above average walk rate of 11%, while cutting his K% from 29% to 18%, which is generally considered a slightly above average percentage. While 72 ABs is still a small sample size, it indicates that there has been some growth in Tebow’s approach and discipline at the plate. For example, early this season, many teams shifted their infield for Tebow to pull the ball, but since then, Tebow has shown the ability to hit the ball to all parts of the field.

Below is a link to a video of Tebow’s walk-off homerun around a week ago for St. Lucie which also mentions his 11-game hit streak which reached 12 games before ending on July 15th. As you can see in this video, the infield is no longer shifted for Tebow to pull the ball, and this home run is hit to the opposite field, indicating power to all parts of the field, not just pull-side.

https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/07/13/tim-tebow-hits-walk-off-home-run

In my opinion, the chances of Tim Tebow becoming a productive everyday player in the MLB is slim to none. However, if he continues to show growth in his abilities and approach at the plate, it is very realistic to think that Tebow could continue to rise through the farm system for the Mets. If his growth continues, I would honestly be shocked if Tebow never plays in the MLB for a team out of contention in games that do not matter. What better way to convince fans to come to games that are meaningless than have one of the most discussed athletes in recent history running around on the field?

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