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.
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.