Tim Tebow will be assigned to the Columbia Fireflies, the Mets’ Low-A South Atlantic League affiliate, to begin the 2017 season. The former Heisman Trophy winner has appeared in seven spring training games, notching four hits in 20 at-bats with five strikeouts. Noting the advanced assignment, GM Sandy Alderson noted, “We were concerned that it might be a stretch at some point, or could be a stretch, but what he’s done in spring training has convinced us that this is where he should go. And he’s prepared for it.”
“He’s obviously very athletic and he has adapted very quickly. His approach at the plate is very solid. He doesn’t chase pitches. People might say his swing is a little long but the swing is professional. When he’s made contact, it’s often been hard contact ... Defensively, it’s still a work in progress but it’s adequate. He’s made some nice plays, again demonstrating the athleticism that everybody’s seen he has.”
Citing concerns that Tebow was ‘undeserving’ of a spot on the Columbia Fireflies, and that he would be taking playing time away from other players, Alderson stated, “We’ve got lots of room for lots of players at lots of different levels. The fact that he’s starting at Columbia, he’s really not taking anybody’s spot.” Maintaining that signing Tebow was not a farce, publicity stunt, or money grab, Alderson noted, “We have lots of players in our organization who are just that: organizational players. Not every player that we have is a top prospect, whose opportunity is being curtailed by Tim Tebow or anybody else.”
Whether or not Tebow will perform well there is anyone’s guess. His performance thus far against professional pitching has been more or less as expected, as the 29-year-old had not played competitive baseball since his high school days. In 19 games with the Scottsdale Scorpions, Tebow accrued 62 at-bats and hit .194/.296/.242, striking out 20 times and walking eight times. He was highly aggressive at the plate, perhaps intentionally, with most of his at-bats being two- or three-pitch affairs and only a handful going further.
His eye at the plate was solid—he rarely swung at pitches that were clearly balls—but his baseball skills were still at a point where he had trouble squaring up on pitches. His swing was long, leading to a lot of swings-and-misses, and when he made contact most balls in play were weak grounders to his pull side—though as the AFL season progressed and he got more confident, he began lifting the ball or poking balls the other way for hits into left, left-center, and center field.
Defensively, Tebow looked adequate, though there was certainly room for him to improve as an outfielder. As a ballplayer overall, his instincts left much to be desired, with the former quarterback not yet showing the inherent instincts of a baseball player—he often failed to immediately run out of the box, get quick reads on balls hit to him, or show awareness on the basepaths.