Can Ruben Tejada Be An Everyday Player For The Mets in 2012?

This offseason, the Mets will be faced with a familiar question: who will start at second base next year?  Last season, Rule 5 pick Brad Emaus beat out Justin Turner, Daniel Murphy and Luis Castillo out of spring training, but quickly lost the job.  Since then, the position has been somewhat of a revolving door due to injuries and Terry Collins struggling to find the right guy to fill the position both offensively and defensively.  As the season winds down, Collins has opted to give twenty-one year old Ruben Tejada the bulk of the playing time at second, prompting the question: is Tejada capable of being an everyday Major League player?

This question is important for two reasons.  First, if Jose Reyes departs free agency, Tejada will more than likely become the starting shortstop.  But if Reyes stays, Tejada will compete for the second base job, along with Turner and Murphy.  Collins has said before that he views second base an offensive position, so while Tejada is clearly superior defensively to Turner and Murphy, he’s going to have to prove he can hit, and hit consistently.  When Ruben received his first round of consistent playing time this season, the answer was probably no.  However, since his return from the minor leagues, Tejada has greatly improved with the bat.

Tejada, who is listed at 5’11 and 185 pounds, was pressed into Major League action early this season after both Ike Davis and David Wright hit the disabled list.  Before returning to the minors following Wright’s return, Tejada hit .250/.338/.274 in 195 plate appearances. with just four extra-base hits.  However, coming into last night’s game, Tejada was hitting .312/.372/.400 in 139 plate appearances with ten extra-base hits since returning to the big leagues, raising his season slash line to .279/.356/.333.  Ruben has been particularly hot as of late, going 13-36 over his recent eight game hitting streak.  He still hasn’t homered this year, and his slugging percentage will probably never be impressive, but the increase in extra-base hits is encouraging.  It’s also important to remember that Tejada is still very young (he won’t be twenty-two until October 27th) and he can still fill out and add on muscle, although he’ll never resemble anything close to a power hitter.

Instead, Ruben will have to rely on making contact, drawing walks, and being a tough out-all things he has done fairly well.  For one, he’s made contact 84.8% of the time, above the ML average of 80.8%, while swinging and missing 7.4% of the time, below the ML average of 8.6%.  In total, he’s walked at a 9.4% rate, above the ML rate of 8.1%, and struck out at a 13.9% clip, below the ML average of 18.6%.  So while he hasn’t been going yard, Tejada has been getting on base, fouling off pitches and making pitchers work.

Tejada is certainly making a case to at least be in the mix for the second base competition next season (or shortstop if Reyes departs).  While he’ll never be a power hitter, his ability to get on base and make contact could make him a good fit in the two-hole in the lineup.  Hopefully he will continue to mature and develop, both mentally and physically, and can find a place on next year’s Opening Day roster.

Tags: Amazins Dan Murphy Daniel Murphy David Wright Ike Davis Jose Reyes Jose Reyes Free Agency Justin Turner Matt Kaufman Mets New York New York Mets Reyes Free Agency Rising Apple Ruben Tejada Ruben Tejada Mets Ruben Tejada Mets 2012 Ruben Tejada RBI Ruben Tejada Second Base Ruben Tejada Shortstop Sandy Alderson Tejada Mets Tejada Mets 2012 Tejada Second Base Terry Collins

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