By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Ruben Tejada, Shortstop, New York Mets
2012 season: 114 G, 464 AB, .289 BA, 1 HR, 53 R, 4 SB, .685 OPS
When the Mets let Jose Reyes go in the 2011-12 offseason, everyone knew that it would be impossible to replace a player of the caliber. At first glance, it appears that Ruben Tejada didn’t even come close to replicating the superstar production. In fact, it appears that Tejada was barely even an adequate Major League player. But the 23-year-old infielder actually provided decent value and figures to be a stalwart in the Mets lineup in the future.
The lacking parts of Tejada’s game are obvious. He doesn’t have a lick of power, and he’s certainly not anything close to the baserunner that Reyes was. And while the native of Panama hit for a good average, he wasn’t so good at drawing walks last year – he garnered just 27 free passes, giving him a 5.4% walk rate and a .333 on-base percentage.
That was probably the most surprising thing about Tejada’s 2012 season, because he had always shown a decent eye at the plate. In 2010, he posted an 8.6% walk rate in the Majors; in 2011, he walked 8.2% of the time at Triple-A and 9.3% of the time in the Majors. In fact, never in his previous five professional seasons had Tejada posted a walk rate as low as he did in 2012.
Patience at the plate will be the key for Tejada as he enters the 2013 season. He’s never going to be a masher or a disruption on the base paths, but if he can hit for a high average and draw walks, he’ll be a very good option at the top of the Mets’ order. It’s also worth noting that Tejada is generally regarded as an above-average defensive shortstop – something his predecessor most certainly was not.
Tejada probably won’t get much recognition, even in New York, as he’s never going to put up the dynamic performance needed to make the back page headlines. But that doesn’t mean that he won’t be an important piece for the Mets. He can be a cheap, above-average option at a position that’s hard to fill. There’s an argument to be made that after David Wright, Tejada was the best position player on the Mets last year. That probably won’t be the case this season, but he’ll still be important piece on the team.
Next up on March 17: Philadelphia Phillies