I generally get excited about the Mets youth. There is something about calling up a new player that brings some excitement, some hope for the future. Last season, a lot of young Amazins were on display, including some big names like Ike Davis and Jennry Mejia, both of whom showed bright futures. However, not everyone impressed right off the bat.
Ruben Tejada debuted for the Mets on April 7th last year and, to be honest, was not that successful. In 255 plate appearances, he hit just .213/.305/.282 with one homer and two steals (he was caught twice). At just 21 years old and not yet a factor in the second base competition, why on Earth should Met fans care about Ruben Tejada?
Terry Collins has stated that he wants Tejada to begin the year at Triple A Buffalo, as well he should. The young Panamanian had a rough go of it offensively last season and looked over matched at times against major league pitching. There were signs of encouragement, however. In his last 92 PA, Tejada batted .295/.378/.423 while also hitting his only home run of the year. That performance alone won’t be enough to crack the major league roster, but at least he was able to adjust down the stretch.
Tejada’s minor league stats aren’t that impressive either. He’s batting just .273/.343/.353 with 11 long balls in four seasons. After performing well enough (.289/.351/.381 with five homers) at Double A Binghamton in 2009 as a 19 year old, Teajda was pushed to Buffalo in 2010, where he spent half the year and saw his OPS drop to .673. So again, why care about Tejada?
For one, Collins has made it clear that should Jose Reyes wind up on the disabled list, Tejada would be the guy who gets the call from the minors to fill the void. Ruben played a mix of shortstop and second last year, but the Mets have a plethora of options at second. It is also conceivable that if Reyes were to leave the team via trade or free agency, Tejada would step into the starting role midway through this season or in 2012 if the Mets were not to sign a replacement.
Now, there is no way Tejada could ever really replace Jose Reyes, if it does come down to that. However, Tejada’s lack of offensive prowess doesn’t entirely have to do with his baseball skill set. As noted above, he started figuring things out towards the end of the season, which was a positive. It’s clear he will never be a power hitter, but Tejada says he added about ten pounds of muscle this offseason, which could help him reach the gaps at Citi Field and pickup some more doubles, thereby raising his slugging percentage. Finally, the Mets have developed a history recently, of aggressively pushing prospects, and Tejada has been no exception. He played Rookie Ball at age 17 and has moved up one level per year without being sent back down. Maybe it’s possible Tejada has been playing at levels beyond his capability and he will finally catch up this season?
Tejada’s future is tough to predict. If the Mets re-sign Reyes, he will be blocked at shortstop, and Tejada is already far down the depth chart at second base. Unless Castillo wins the job or Muphy/Emaus/Turner are inadequate (he’ll also eventually have to compete with Reese Havens who is more offensively potent), who knows where he will stand with management heading into 2012. It seems like he’ll stay in the organization this year in case something happens to Reyes, but given that his future depends heavily on how others perform, how long he remains with the Mets is uncertain.