2011 Evaluation: Ruben Tejada

This is the part of evaluations where I’d really like to be discussing Jose Reyes. Unfortunately, Reyes has moved on to greener pastures, so we won’t go through the pain and torture of analyzing his 2011 season — the first in which a New York Met won a batting title. Instead, we’ll skip to Reyes’ replacement at shortstop, Ruben Tejada.

Young Ruben made great strides offensively, improving his batting average and OBP dramatically in comparison to his 78-game preview in 2010. Through 96 games and 376 plate appearances in 2011, Tejada hit .284 with a .360 OBP and .696 OPS. Looking just at the final numbers, and adding in his flashy defensive skills, Tejada appears to be a young star on the rise. Watching him on a daily basis, though, I’m not yet sold.

Defensively, Ruben Tejada looks above-average at second base, with good range, soft hands, strong arm, and good turn on the double-play. Offensively, I can’t get a handle on him; there is some discrepancy between what my eyes saw and what the numbers state. What I saw was a younger, less disciplined, slower afoot version of Luis Castillo — bloops and bleeders that were directed where “they ain’t”. Tejada did draw an impressive number of walks, but that total might have been skewed by batting in front of the pitcher the majority of the time. Granted, hitting eighth didn’t help Rey Ordonez, but anyone with a modicum of patience should be able to draw a decent number of walks in that lineup position. Tejada’s strikeout total was a little high for someone with minimal power: one K every 7.5 plate appearances, or, about 90-95 strikeouts over the course of a full season. I like that he hit .333 with two outs and a man on third, and he stayed near his average with RISP (.282). I don’t like how his swing gets a little long — in that way, he does remind me of Ordonez. Also like Ordonez, Tejada can’t bunt — though, that’s not much of an issue for someone hitting eighth. But, if he can field as well as he did at second base and clear the #8 spot in the order to bring the pitcher up, then Tejada is a valuable asset.

However, I wasn’t as impressed with Tejada at shortstop. His arm was still strong but more erratic, and though he showed good range his hands weren’t so sure. Additionally, he didn’t display great instincts. My assumption is that Tejada didn’t impress at shortstop because he spent most of his time playing second base.

2012 Projection

It appears as though Ruben Tejada is the penciled-in shortstop as of now. I think that he’s going to struggle, for several reasons. First, I’m not sure he’s defensively ready to play shortstop at a level that will overcome his limited offensive skills. He might be, but I haven’t seen anything remarkable from him yet at shortstop — though, one would hope he can translate most of his second base skills to the other side of the bag. Offensively, I fully expect to see a drop in production from 2011. What I’m seeing as realistic is a .330 OBP and .240-.260 AVG. Hopefully I’m way off on my projection but that’s what my eyes are telling me.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Tommy2cat December 28, 2011 at 6:58 am
    Hi Joe:

    Happy Holidays to you & your family. Great job this year!

    Going into 2011, I had a few reservations about Tejada. His glove & instincts appeared sound, but on occasion he appeared overmatched. Same thing at the plate, he appeared to be a better hitter than his average indicated, but again he appeared overmatched.

    In retrospect, Tejada made great strides to removing doubts and establishing himself as a steady, positive contributor on the field and at the plate.

    On the field, Tejada handled the routing plays with aplomb and turned in some magnificent web-gems. He struggled on occasion with balls hit to his right – he’d try to curl around the ball with his glove forehand rather than charging the ball, planting his feet and handling it backhand. By September, he appeared to have made great strides in correcting what amounts to a technical flaw. He impressed me with his ability to make corrections on the fly – the reports were that he worked on this flaw with a ton of dedication.

    At the plate, he exceeded my expectations. I disagree with your Luis Castillo analogy. Ruben doesn’t have Luis’ speed at a comparable age. His hits appeared well struck, sharply hit balls b/w infielders and occasional gap-power. What impressed me more was his discipline at the plate – his ability to work the count and appear comfortable with two strikes. I can remember more than a few times where he worked an opposing pitcher, who would then falter against the bigger bats in the line-up.

    I suppose the words “precocious” and “maturity” comes to mind when I think of Ruben Tejada. He’s not flashy like his predecessor, but I welcome his calm and understated demeanor – he appears most enthusiastic after we win a game rather than after an individual accomplishment, no matter how great or small. Ruben Tejada is a breath of fresh air.

  2. Tommy2cat December 28, 2011 at 7:21 am
    Of course, any discussion of Tejada invites discussion about Reyes’ absence. Given the totality of the circumstances, we might be better off with a productive and healthy Tejada at shortstop, which opens the door to a world of possibilities for the rest of the infield.

    We have four bona fide options at second base – Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, Reese Havens & Jordany Valdespin.

    With an infield of Wright at 3rd, Tejada at short, Murphy & co. at 2nd and Ike Davis at first, we have a number of interchangeable parts.

    Murphy can also play 1st & 3rd; Turner can play 3rd, SS & left field; Valdespin can play SS – although I believe he might get a look-see in the outfield. Havens is the only true 2nd baseman. IF he can remain healthy as a starting 2nd baseman, then we’ll have quite a bench of productive players who can play multiple positions.

    Don’t look now, but we may actually be formulating a roster of gritty grinders rather than prima donnas – a team that will battle in the later innings and prove themselves in late & close situations.

    I am not so concerned about our ability to produce runs. I am pleased with the additions to the bullpen. The rotation remains a chief concern – mind boggling to consider that the health status of the person we’re paying 24m to anchor the rotation remains uncertain.

    Here’s my take – if Johan returns anywhere close to form and if Pelfrey rediscovers his 2010 first-half prowess, and Dickey, Niese and Gee progress – we’ll exceed most everyone’s expectations.

    • Tony December 28, 2011 at 11:41 am
      I agree with what you said about Castillo..think Tejeda drives the ball better…They both work the count even if they get out..Mets need that. When I think of Tejeda, gotta remember he Is young, developing still. There not as young, but same could be said for Davis, Duda, etc. One of the only nice things about this year will be seeing how they develop.
  3. Mike B December 28, 2011 at 8:13 am
    Gritty grinders rather then prima donnas? K rod aside, have you watched Carlos and Jose the last 7 years play for this team? they are a lot of things and have dissapointed us plenty over the years but they werent prima donnas. Put down the Koolaide the Wilpons sent over.

    I think Jose and Tejada have one thing in common, they are both going to hit 20 points less this year. I like Tejeda, he took two steps foward last year and now I am pretty sure we will watch him take 1 step back especially with no protection.

    With the loss of Reyes and Beltran and even Pagan(but I am not complaining about angel) we lost about 60% of out offense. Its going to make it that much tougher for these young “gritty” guys to perform at an equal or higher level at the plate.

    • Tommy2cat December 28, 2011 at 6:57 pm
      Hi Mike –

      It’s a double-edged sword. I’ll miss Reyes’ natural enthusiasm but won’t miss his histrionics. Reyes & Beltran’s sporadic and lengthy absences from the line-up were season-killers (as was Wright’s & JayBay’s AWOL performance).

      I’m not trying to vilify them, either. They are GREAT ballplayers. It’s just that too often they played as individuals (moreso Reyes) than as a team.

      We have to start from where we are. I think Tejada’s cool demeanor is a welcomed departure from his predecessor’s Tasmanian temperament.

      While it appears unrelated, just think about the HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS pissed away either by Beltran’s, Reyes’, Wright’s & Santana’s absences from the everyday roster COMBINED WITH the insane contracts handed out to Castillo & Ollie and COMPOUNDED BY JayBay’s non-performance.

      It’s absolutely calculable and really not funny in the slightest – not to the victims of Bernie Madoff’s scheme and not to the working parents that simply want to be able to afford to take their families to more than one or two ballgames a year.

      Thank God Sandy Alderson has stepped in to insert some sanity and fiscal responsibility into the Met front office.

      • Tommy2cat December 28, 2011 at 7:05 pm
        I hope that players such as Ruben Tejada will come to exemplify a new culture in the NY Met organization. Be still, work hard, keep quiet, ply your trade & good things will happen.

        I truly believe this year’s team will exceed the expectations of many people. With Terry Collins at the helm and Wally Backman at AAA, the link between AAA and MLB rosters will be seamless.

        I expect that our team will be deeper and better prepared than many other organizations. Organizational depth is a relevant factor when evaluating a team over the course of a 162-game season.

        • Mike B December 28, 2011 at 9:18 pm
          Tommy I can understand your optimism, I really can. I use to be an optimistic Mets fan but now I am just bitter. How many AAAA players do you want to see in Citi when you have all these stars playing on other teams in the tri state area?
      • Joe Janish December 29, 2011 at 1:38 am
        I think you give Sandy Alderson FAR too much credit. The reality is that the Wilpons are dead broke, in deep debt, and a bleak outlook for revenues in the foreseeable future. So it doesn’t really matter who the GM is, there is no choice but to cut payroll and costs at every turn. It’s not as if Omar Minaya would have been able to sign a big-time free agent this winter — there’s no money to do it!

        OK, Alderson got Zack Wheeler for Beltran. Other than that, what has he done that is wildly out of the box or impressive? We won’t know for five years. Other than Beato, his winter moves last year of Carrasco, Young, Buchholz, Bonser, etc. all failed, as did the Emaus experiment. Meanwhile, the “Omar guys” provided the hope and promise — Thole, Niese, Davis, Turner, Gee, Duda, etc. Granted had Omar done a better job the Mets might be in a better situation but the point is that Alderson has yet to prove anything at all, other than mastery of rhetoric. I’m not going to be thankful for Alderson’s existence until I see something tangible at the big-league level.

        • John December 29, 2011 at 3:09 pm
          I don’t if anyone questions Minaya’s ability to judge talent. It is his ability to run a ball club that was his problem. His development people struggled to develop basic baseball instincts in what appear to be talented young players. His poor judgement in signing free agents and his discarding of young players before they had a chance to adjust to the major leagues. Also, what is often neglected was he was awful and putting together a integrated 25 man roster, i.e. players who complemented each other.
  4. Golfbone December 28, 2011 at 8:46 am
    I predict that Tejeda is going to have a better year overall than Reyes who will be injured, have clubhouse issues with Hanley leading to problems, and swing for the fences causing the old “pop up/pop out” problem that plagued him as a Met for years.

    I like Tejeda’s attitude and maturity. He filled out and added some pop to his bat and he is very clutch getting some big 2 out hits for the team. The other players like him and he is respectful and quiet. His defense is excellent and he will hit for .265 or better with 20+ doubles and 4 or 5 dingers if he gets in 500+ at bats. He may surprise us with off season conditioning and come into camp 10 lbs heavier trying to gains ome pop with more muscle too as he’s still young and capable of doing that. SS is not the Mets problem next year.

    The outfield, catcher and starting pitching is where they are particularly weak and not capable of winning their division. If the same team had a decent catcher, CF and starting pitching you’d be looking at a 90-100 win season but that’s like saying that all I’m missing is wings and I could fly.

    • Mike B December 28, 2011 at 11:41 am
      So what your saying is Reyes who has proven at the MLB level can hit 15-20 Hrs is going to be plagued going for the long ball. But Tejeda who has proven to hit 1-2 a year is going to come in with some pop next year. And lets attack Reyes’s attitude on the field, remember the Marlins had such a problem with that?

      I am sorry I know I am over sensitive on this topic but I can not in good conscious let people paint the bright side of losing Jose Reyes and replacing him with Tejeda. If I am proven wrong then I will apologize next year.

      Talk about injuries and his over the top act all you want but Reyes has been in the bigs for 8 and half years and has had MVP consideration in 5 of them.

    • Joe December 28, 2011 at 1:06 pm
      Sure. Besides that, Abe, how was the play?

      The division is pretty tough to say 90-100, too tough I say, but sure, if the team had stars at two key positions like that plus two to three better starters, it has playoff potential. I’d add another bat to be honest, but ok.

      That’s a significant addition though. But, let’s not bite off more than we can chew. A good year from Tejada would be nice w/o worrying about him being BETTER than an established star. Reyes was hurt twice last year. He still was better than Tejada has any real chance of being.

      As to Joe Janish, I think his take sounds about right. Tejada probably didn’t have enough consistent play day after day in the field last season. That is, I would want to see how he works as an everyday player. All he was something of an everyday short term fill-in. Pridie served that role well for a month too. I need to see T. long term. And, it will take some poise given who he is in effect replacing. A tag team of Tejada and Murphy in mid-infield, a bit of a blah.

    • HobieLandrith December 28, 2011 at 1:46 pm
      Yeah if the Mets kept Reyes, Beltran, and K-Rod, and added three starters around the same level of Lee / Hamels / Halladay, and picked up an All-Star catcher, they would have a really good shot of winning 90 games — even with Andres Torres in CF. Agreed.
  5. Tony December 28, 2011 at 11:37 am
    Mark Simon did a good write up on his defensive skills, more statistical based, so not perfect, but interesting, should still be available..shows he may be a better defender at SS than people think..it’s his bat that worries me. Although while he seemed over matched at times, he did overcome that and play better toward the end of the season..his walk rate may have been helped by the 8th spot, but that could also be part of the increase of SO, you don’t get much to hit there..he hit very well and worked the count well from the #2 spot. There are obvious benefits to batting there, but a need to make them count, although I see Murphy being there except against lefties.
    • John December 29, 2011 at 3:18 pm
      As to Tejada’s bat keep in mind that he has improved at every level he has played. Both from level to level but also from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. That is a sign of a player who knows how to adjust. Not saying it means anything at the major league level, but it is a positive when you are evaluating a player.
  6. HobieLandrith December 28, 2011 at 12:05 pm
    I saw that article, it was ridiculous. You can’t go by statistical-based evaluation for fielding when a guy has played in less than 70 games at shortstop in MLB, the sample size is way too small. And Simon’s article worked with an even tinier sample – 353 innings which is less than 40 games. A more significant stat, to me, is that he made 8 errors at short last year, which over the course of a full season would project to over 30. So great, he makes plays other shortstops don’t, but he also gives away more outs than any other shortstop.

    And as for working the count well in the #2 spot I don’t know what games you were watching. Tejada walked 5 times in 94 plate appearances hitting in the two hole — or, once every 19 times up. Contrast that to walking once every 8.5 times when he was in the #8 hole. So yeah, hitting 8th “may have” helped his walk rate. He hit well at #2 because he got a lot of fastballs with a speedster in front of him and either David Wright or a red-hot Lucas Duda behind him. Granted Wright was slumping but he still had a reputation and pitchers didn’t want to give away a base to an unknown singles hitter with Wright on deck.

    • Tony December 28, 2011 at 1:59 pm
      I never said he walked a lot, I said he worked the count well, #2 hitter is going to try to move a guy over and possibly take more pitches to allow the runner (reyes) to move himself. Also, Simon’s article may have been based on Samples, as I said, not perfect, but it contained more analysis than this while pointing out it is imperfect.
  7. Dan B December 28, 2011 at 1:19 pm
    My biggest concern at shortstop is not that we are giving it to Tejada but we don’t seem to have a legitimate backup plan in case he fails/gets hurt. The Mets are putting a lot of faith into a young player with limited major league time at shortstop who many scouts do not put much faith into. Even if he is a solid starter, what is our back up plan?
    • HobieLandrith December 28, 2011 at 1:47 pm
      Great point. The backup plan now is who? Joe J – any comment?
  8. Izzy December 28, 2011 at 2:45 pm
    I liked Tejada since i saw him in Bingy. That being said, I agree with Joe J…He looks like a great second baseman but an average SS. He will look bad playing everyday and people comparing him to Reyes. He doesn’t have the range nor the arm. And at bat, I think he is stronger than Castillo but without the speed he’s not a Reyes or a young (Marlins) Castillo. We also don’t know if a full workload for 162 will wear him out. If the manager is going to play every game like the pennant is at stake, Tejada will probably regress. If Collins accpets his lot as manager of a miserable team he won’t hurt Tejada.
  9. Rob December 28, 2011 at 4:10 pm
    Having gotten rid of anyone worthy of mention…except Wright…we’re doomed for years. I hope that Rubin exceeds expectations…but I’m not holding my breath. Face it…we lost a spectacular superstar at shortstop and we’re replacing him with Wally Pip. What a terrific long term plan. If Andy Marchand can come up with a reason why we won’t stink and finish in last, I’m looking forward to his rationale. Otherwise, I’m prepared to endure at least two seasons of last place. My only prayer is that the Wilpons lose their suit to the Madoff Trustee and they’re forced to sell the team to someone else. While I prefer the devil you know to the devil you don’t, I’m prepared to scrap that time-honored motto in favor of any other devil who has money to spend and is willing to spend it.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go look at old baseball cards of the late ’90’s Mets teams…when we had something to look forward to…

    • Dan B December 28, 2011 at 6:09 pm
      Rob, don’t be so glum. You could also look at the old baseball cards of the late 60’s and mid 80’s Mets. Feel any better now?
      • Joe December 28, 2011 at 6:22 pm
        Heck, how about the early 2000s?
    • Steve S. December 28, 2011 at 7:48 pm
      Agree with you about the Wilponzis!

      But the team is fairly solid now—except for the starting rotation, which needed to be upgraded and wasn’t! The only SP I’m confident about is Dickey. Niese is overrated (ERA+ of 84 last year), and to pay Pelfrey about $6 million is criminal (with his ERA+ of 78). And Gee (also ERA+ of 84) is nothing special either.

  10. argonbunnies December 29, 2011 at 3:32 am
    Joe, alas, I’m with you on Ruben. Not enough pop to scare pitchers and draw walks, not enough glove to make up for his bat, no great foot speed either.

    The fact that he can play in the majors at age 21 is pretty cool. However, though most guys improve dramatically between age 21 and their peaks, I can’t see a ton of projection with Tejada. I dunno, maybe he could hit a soft .300 one day and make plays on all the balls he gets to at SS. That’d be fine. But not likely any time soon.

    I kinda wish he was still in the minors so we’d get his prime years at a bargain rate. I’m not a fan of using kids’ MLB service clocks on early development, such that they’re arbitration-eligible by the time they’re truly ready to contribute in the majors.

    But maybe the brass thought it’s easier to hit in the majors than in AAA after Ruben’s .246/.314/.353 line in Buffalo to start 2011.