Season in preview: Shortstop

The shortstops in April: Ruben Tejada, Ronny Cedeno

Overview: Patrick Flood has you covered for Ruben Tejada-related analysis. From February:

But putting it all together and comparing Tejada to other players who became regulars at a young age, let’s say conservatively there is:

  • A 5% chance Tejada busts
  • A 10% chance he’s a career bench player
  • A 35% he’s a useful regular
  • A 45% chance he’s an All-Star
  • A 5% chance he’s a Hall of Famer

This is, of course, ignoring all other objective and subjective information about Ruben Tejada. So it’s kind of a silly exercise. But this was really my attempt to explain my (over)enthusiasm for Ruben Tejada in statistical form: Young players who hold their own in the major leagues, even the unimpressive ones, tend to develop into solid everyday players, All Stars, and occasionally Hall of Famers. Ruben Tejada played 174 major league games before his 22nd birthday, and that on its own is an excellent sign for his future.

My my recent takes on Tejada’s age are here and here. He’s young, if you haven’t realized. And considering his age, he acquitted himself pretty nicely at the Major League level in 2011. That bodes very well for his long-term future, if not necessarily his 2012 campaign.

Tejada’s not Jose Reyes. He knows it, we know it, everyone knows it. He’s not going to hit like Jose Reyes did in 2011 in 2012, and he’s never going to steal bases like Reyes does — for whatever that’s worth.

But like I said in the above-linked post, Tejada would have been the youngest player on the Mets’ Double-A team in 2011 and would have hit around .338/.424/.426 there, a line that certainly would have placed him among the team’s top prospects heading into Spring Training this year. Given the way fans tend to overvalue their teams’ prospects, would that have mitigated the sting of Reyes’ departure a bit?

A bit, I’d say. But Opening Day is tomorrow and this is supposed to be about the Mets’ shortstops, not the Marlins’.

Tejada should provide solid defense; he’s not the most athletic shortstop in the world but he seems to have great instincts and a strong sense of fundamentals.

He’s a pretty patient hitter so it seems unlikely he’ll completely collapse on offense. But it’d be kind of surprising to see him repeat his strong 2011 campaign in his second year in the league, since he was never quite that good in the Minors.

If 2012 is a rebuilding or a retooling or a time-biding year for the Mets, they’ll be well-served sticking with Tejada throughout. Young players need time to adjust. Don’t forget that Jose Reyes, for all his hype, mustered only a .273/.300/.387 line when he was 22, in his third year in the league.

Oh there I go again with that.

Ronny Cedeno should provide strong defense and significantly less-strong offense in the backup role.

The shortstops in September: Tejada, Cedeno.

How they stack up: Tejada looks to be in the middle of the pack of NL East shortstops.

I have to figure he’s better than the Braves’ Tyler Pastornicky, who’s about Tejada’s age and wasn’t as good as Tejada’s Double-A equivalency line when he played in Double-A last year. Jimmy Rollins is 33 and looked like he was fading before a somewhat resurgent 2011. When you adjust for the ballparks, Rollins wasn’t so much better than Tejada offensively, but Rollins is a strong defender and way more of a known quantity and obviously gets the preseason nod until Tejada shows more in the big leagues.

The Nats are still going with Ian Desmond, who has not been very good on either side of the ball the past couple of years. Unless he recaptures whatever it was he was doing at the Major and Minor League levels in 2009, I’ll take my chances with Tejada. And the Marlins…


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