Nick Tanielu knows full well he’s not at the top of any of the Astros’ prospect lists, and that’s just the way he likes it.
The 26-year-old infielder had a breakout Spring Training camp with Houston and has carried that momentum into the season with Round Rock
“I never was a prospect and I never will be,” he said. “It fires you up a little bit. Every time the lists come out and I’m not on there, I want them to know the drive they’re giving me for not putting me on there.”
Tanielu turned heads when he hit .353 with six doubles, a triple five home runs and 18 RBIs in 21 games during Springs Training with the Astros. He parlayed that into a stellar start with Round Rock, winning PCL Player of the Week in early June.
“He’s a grinder, and heroes about the game with that approach,” Express manager Mickey Storey said. “He opened some eyes in Spring Training. We joke that you label guys as a prospect or a grinder, one or the other, and if you can be a prospect who grinds then that’s a good thing.”
A number of Round Rock players that aren’t in the Top 30 in the Astros’ prospect list have been called up this season, and Storey said Tangelo’s name continues to be in discussions should the MLB club have a need.
Tanielu picked up the game at a young age, following in the footsteps of his brother and cousin.
His dad never played baseball, rather he was on the Samoan national rugby team working every day with Nick and picking up tee-ball when hew as just five or six years old and living in Alabama.
Tanielu moved to Washington his freshman year of high school, setting school records in home runs and RBIs during his second season at Federal Way High School. He was one of the best hitters for Washington State for two seasons.
“For me, going up there was taught because I had a lot of family in Federal Way,” Tanielu said. “But also getting away and trying to find myself as far as a baseball player and becoming a man, it was good for me. Pullman has got a little grit to it.”
The Astros drafted Tanielu in the 14th round in 2014. he was promoted to Triple-A last season after missing 2017 with an ACL injury and spent most of the season with the Fresno Grizzlies, mashing five home runs with 37 RBIs and a .289 average in 76 games.
Ahead of last season, he would’ve said he was a different player after the ACL injury, but he said he wasn’t as conditioned following he yearlong hiatus.
“This offseason, I just tried to get back to my roots and get back to what I am,” he said. “I came back in better shape. My goal was to get my entire lower half strong and do anything they need and be a guy they can lean on and trust.”
Tanielu has excelled on the diamond far away from the United States.
He signed with the Auckland Tuatara if the Australian Baseball League ahead of their first-ever season in 2018, finishing with six RBIs and five runs scored in 16 games played, although none of his appearances were in New Zealand.
“It’s just one of those things you don’t get to do that often,” Tanielu said. “The fans are almost like a soccer type in that they chant and stuff like that. Baseball still has a long way to go on that side of the ocean, but it’s fun to see guys competing.”
With Jose Altuve, the 2017 AL MVP at second base, and all stars Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman rounding out the rest of the infield at the major-league level, playing time is cramped and the roster is stacked with talent throughout the system.
Tanielu doesn’t look at the depth chart.
“You’ve got to think you’ve got to be ready if they call your name,” he said. “That’s what you prepare for. You don’t prepare to be better than Altuve. You can only prepare for your opportunity.”