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Is It Tim Tebow Time in 2019?

It has been a long and polarizing road for Tim Tebow as a professional athlete. The two-time national champion and 2007 Heisman Trophy winner for the Florida Gators was a 2010 first-round draft pick to the Denver Broncos and, while he was never much of a passer (with the exception of his classic game-winning touchdown pass against Pittsburgh), he did impressively rack up 887 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns in two seasons with varying time under center.

After it was clear that his time in the NFL was over and he had no desire to play Canadian or Arena League Football; Tebow has been everything from an SEC Network analyst, philanthropist, and nation-sweeping meme. Then it was announced that Tim Tebow was pursuing a career in professional baseball, and what was at first considered a huge joke has now become a bit more serious after two seasons of minor league baseball in the New York Mets farm system.

Although media coverage has thus far outweighed his on-field production, Tebow finished the 2018 season on a high note, hitting safely in 13 of his last 14 games and ending with a .273 average. That said, should we start to seriously consider that the Mets might promote him to the big club in 2019? In other words, is Tebow Time almost upon us (again)?

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A Gator in the Big Apple?

Now, it's important to note that part of the promise that the Mets saw in Tebow came from his physical abilities demonstrated at his workout, which came much to the surprise of on-lookers. All jokes about the man as a football player aside, we are talking about one of the most successful quarterbacks in NCAA history who used to run the ball through defenses like a hot knife through butter, complete jump passes against top-tier college defenses, and could bench press absolutely Herculean amounts. Yet somehow people managed to be surprised to find out that Tebow was strong, and could run and jump well. He is an excellent athlete, and this we have always known.

The issue with him staying in the NFL wasn't his athletic ability, it was due to the pesky inconvenience of being a poor passing quarterback. So while the Mets certainly saw some potential in the physical tools of a 30-year old former pro football player, the trepidation and occasional outrage from Mets supporters and baseball fans, in general, came from the low odds that Tebow (who has very little overall baseball experience) was anything more than a sideshow. Even for the most optimistic of Tebow supporters, there was still mounds of skepticism that he would be able to develop baseball skills adequate enough to remain with the organization for longer than a weekend excursion. That's what appeared to be happening throughout the majority of the start of Tebow's actual baseball career.

Since 2016, Tebow has played outfield across three platforms: in the Arizona Fall League (2016) for the Scottsdale Scorpions, for the Mets in Spring Training (2017 and 2018), and across the Single-A, Single-A+, and Double-A levels in the minor leagues (2017 and 2018). In 62 AB in the AFL Tebow hit zero HR, stole one base out of three stolen-base attempts, and produced a discouraging slash line of .196/.286/.242. In time spent for the Mets Spring Training squad (45 AB), he fared even worse with a goose egg in the homer and stolen-base departments and a downright ugly slash of .111/.167/.111. To add to the overall disappointing picture, Tebow appeared to flop across the Single-A and Single-A+ levels throughout 2017 with a .656 OPS, eight dingers, and two steals while being caught in the attempt twice in 430 AB for the Columbia Fireflies and St. Lucie Mets.

Then, something shocking happened: Tim Tebow put together an objectively and undeniably solid season as a Double-A baseball player as a member of the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. Before his season was unfortunately cut short after 271 AB due to surgery to repair a broken bone in his hand, he had achieved six long-balls, 21 total XBH (14 doubles and a triple), a single stolen base in his sole attempt, and a rather well-rounded slash line of .273/.336/.399. Like it or not, his offensively competent campaign put people on notice that he may not be such a long-running punchline at the plate after all.

Now, what this all actually means for Tebow's realistic chances of advancement is quite unclear. Just at the Major League level alone stands the obstacles of Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Juan Lagares, Yoenis Cespedes, Dominic Smith, and Braxton Lee, while not even taking into account the high-ranking outfield prospects within the Mets organization of Desmond Lindsay (#9), Adrian Hernandez (#12), and Freddy Valdez (#15). Former Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson was quoted as saying that he believed Tim Tebow would reach the major leagues (though, perhaps this one of the judgments that caused Mets ownership to lose trust in him). While it all still seems like an offhand dare that went too far, Tebow is still a member of the New York Mets organization and at 31-years old, will be starting the Double-A (or potentially Triple-A) season coming off of the best season of baseball he's ever played.

You know the annoying sports cliche where people say, "stranger things have happened"? I genuinely don't know if something stranger has happened, at least in major league baseball terms, with Randy Johnson's bird-ball being the only conceivable rival if Tim Tebow were to make it to the MLB level for the Mets outfield.

To be clear, we have in no way been discussing Tebow in terms of fantasy baseball value. If that day ever comes, we'll find ourselves in another dimension. For now, the very fact that he finds himself two levels away from Citi Field is stupefying, and (for those of us who have something besides contempt for Tebow) appreciate how entertaining of a distraction his journey has become. I'd be gob-smacked if Tim Tebow appeared in the majors in 2019, but if he somehow manages, expect his ownership to shoot up for the sheer spectacle and curiosity factor. Dynasty owners need not get their bids ready though, as Tebow Time is likely to be short-lived in the majors, it happens at all.