The greatest hitters in baseball history failed in a majority of their at-bats. New York Mets outfielder Tim Tebow experienced a disastrous 2019 season at the Triple-A level, but it’s far from the end of his MLB dream.
Tebow knows failure and how to learn from it. When No. 4 Florida lost to unranked Ole Miss on Sept. 27, 2008 and cost the Gators a shot at an undefeated season, Tebow responded with his iconic “Promise” speech, learned from the loss and led his team to a national title that season.
The 32-year-old outfielder can rebound from his disastrous season. Before moving forward and examining his chances to make his MLB debut in 2020, we must look back at what went wrong in 2019.
A year of struggle:
Things started poorly for him the moment the first pitch of the season was thrown. Tebow’s bat matched Syracuse’s frigid temperatures and it took months before his bat started to thaw.
- Across his first month of the season, Tebow struck out in 33.8% of his plate appearances and could barely manage to clear a .200 OBP with three extra-base hits and a .194 SLG.
- He showed slight improvements in May, hitting his first home run and raising his OBP to .269 with a .250 SLG. However, he also struck out in 41% of his appearances – even against a position player.
- Tebow’s season reached its lowest point in June, becoming the worst player in baseball. After 195 at-bats at the Triple-A level, he held a .154/.233/.231 with a 37% strikeout rate and only a 7.9% walk rate.
- He started to figure things out in his final 23 games. Tebow raised his slash line to .215/.282/.400 in 65 at-bats with nine doubles and three home runs. Then he suffered a season-ending cut on his finger.
A freak injury wiped away Tebow’s chance to see if he finally started to figure things out. After being unable to adjust and find his way against Triple-A pitching, he got hurt the moment he showed signs of figuring it out.
Now, Tebow has the chance to make another incredible comeback. By training this offseason and putting in the time to better himself as a player, Tebow can take advantage when the next opportunity comes.
Fortunately for him, and unfortunately for the team’s long-term future, the Mets don’t have a top outfield prospect who is ready for a promotion to the Triple-A level. Jarred Kelenic would have been exactly that, but general manager Brodie Van Wagenen traded him.
Tebow’s manager in 2019, Tony DeFrancesco, captured the situation perfectly, highlighting why Tebow will get plenty of opportunities next season in Syracuse with a regular role.
“Right now, it’s a good place for Tim Tebow to be because there’s not a 22-year-old waiting in Double-A, the next phenom. Some of the prospects were traded for some of the transactions that they (New York) made at the major league level,” DeFrancesco said, via Syracuse.com. “I think next year we’ll be in the same situation. A lot of veteran guys are going to have to be signed to help the major league team at both levels.”
The 32-year-old outfielder offers some pop in his bat, even if inconsistent mechanics, poor timing and struggles against experienced pitchers rarely show it. He doesn’t need more power or strength. It comes down to grabbing a bat and working on the little details over and over again.
“It might take a little more time than people expected, third year professional ball, first year Triple-A,” DEFRANCESCO SAID, via syracuse.com. “Unfortunately, injuries got to him. Those are at-bats that I think Tim really needs to develop, to really understand his swing, his decision-making, seeing pitches. So I think that still has to improve,”
These are things Tebow can work on during the offseason. He has the financial resources to take advantage of virtual reality training or find pitchers to work with if he wants to face the real thing regularly.
If Tebow wants to live out his baseball dream and to experience that moment when he’s called up to the majors and gets to make his MLB debut, the work must happen now. This is the proverbial final drive, the ultimate chance to succeed or fail.
Projecting Tim Tebow’s 2020 season
The national spotlight on Tebow’s baseball career is gone. Syracuse didn’t see a significant boost in attendance from Tebow’s presence in its lineup. The Mets, whether it’s Syracuse or New York, won’t give him anything he doesn’t earn in 2020.
He started to get a little more comfortable at the plate in the summer and find some success, then he suffered the unfortunate injury. While it served as a setback for 2019, it can be a slice of confidence for him going into next season.
We saw Tebow’s work ethic in football extend his career longer than many expected by playing better than some thought he would. No one expects him to develop into a .300 hitter or hit 20-plus home runs next season in his second stint at Triple-A Syracuse.
Instead, he needs to show the steady signs of progress and that he put the time in to become a professional baseball player. If he does the little things and works tirelessly to fix his swing mechanics, better understand what pitchers will throw him and increase his bat speed, the numbers will improve.
Tebow has shown he can learn from failure and respond by becoming a better player and delivering even greater results. That same approach we saw at Florida and in the NFL, can push him to a productive season in Syracuse.
If he can post the numbers we saw from him in Double-A during the 2017 season, a .273/.336/.399 slash line, that will show the improvement everyone wanted to see. At that point, nearing the end of his career, Tebow should get the call he dreamed of and make his MLB debut at Citi Field with the New York Mets in September.