When Ruben Tejada went down with a strained right quad in the beginning of May against the Diamondbacks, a hole at shortstop was created that wasn’t filled appropriately until returned on June 24th. At the time of his injury, Tejada was hitting at .305, and once he left the lineup, it was clear that his presence was missed. Since he returned to New York after a longer than anticipated rehab of his right quad, he has continued his great performance on the field, currently hitting .350 (12-34) in his last eight games.
When asked about Tejada during his DL stint, Terry Collins told the media that they were missing their 22-year-old shortstop for many reasons; it was not only his offense at the top of the lineup and from the right side of the plate that they wanted back, but the consistent defensive play that was needed to stabilize the middle infield, opposite of Daniel Murphy. Once he returned against the Yankees, he used his glove and his bat (2-4, 2 RBI) to make his presence felt once again.
Collins has said multiple times that over the next few years, Tejada will erase the perception that he’s filling the void that is left by Jose Reyes. In fact, he’s already done that for a number of fans. He’s aware that he won’t be the type of player that Reyes was in Flushing; he won’t be stealing bases at a high right and won’t be a run-scoring machine. However, he’s proven that he is a viable table-setter; his
triple slash of .317/.370/.403 is impressive, but it’s his extra base hits that have been the biggest surprise with Ruben in 2012.
In 139 at-bats this season, Tejada has smacked 12 doubles, which will be his main source of power since he’s only hit one home run in his MLB career. In 2011, it took Tejada 328 at-bats to hit 15 doubles and one triple, and in 219 at-bats in 2010, he hit 12 doubles and that one home run. So, it’s clear that he’s maturing as a hitter, and is currently on pace to crush his previous career high in extra base hits. His BABIP is currently sitting at .393, the highest it’s ever been in his professional career, showing that his increased amount of extra base hits can be attributed to him hitting the ball harder on a more consistent basis.
Since Tejada broke in with the Mets in 2010, he’s hit line drives at a 25.4% rate. Along with a career GB/FB of 1.26, it makes sense that he’s been mostly a singles hitter. However, his LD% has gone up 4% this year compared to his career average, with his ground ball rate dropping approximately seven percentage points (41.6% career vs. 34.9% in ’12), while hitting more fly balls than normal (32.9% career vs. 35.8% in ’12).
So, he’s hitting the ball harder and in the air more often which makes his increased amount of extra base hits a logical result. Makes sense, right? As Tejada matures from his teenage years, the Mets have been seeing his steady growth at the plate, and are now reaping the benefits. Since 2010, his LD% has steadily gone up from 22.5% to his current 29.4%. He’s come a long way from the ballplayer with no power and little patience in 2010. His performance in 2012 provide the answer to the question I posed in the title of this article: is Ruben Tejada the shortstop of the future for the Mets? His growth as a ballplayer has shown us that the answer is a resounding yes.
What do you think? Is Tejada the right fit for the Mets at shortstop for the long term?