Wait a Second, Is Ruben Tejada Good?
Well last night was pretty much the most fun you could have without actually having any. Though, I guess it was a pretty good game, at least. Excuse me while I bang my head against the table 25 times.
Anyway last night's loss featured a few notable things, including Jose Reyes continuing his quest to be the first MVP ever traded away from a NY team midseason, and another decent game from 14 year old 2B Ruben Tejada.
If you're looking to assign blame for the Mets record, you can't really look at any failing with the team's younger players, including Tejada, Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, Dillon Gee and Jon Niese. Instead, that blame falls with a couple stretches of shaky relief pitching, Jason Bay's campaign to become a bigger bust then Robert Alomar or Mo Vaughn, and the injuries to David Wright, Ike Davis and Angel Pagan.
Tejada has been particularly impressive to me. I've long operated under the assumption that he didn't have enough aggregate offensive and defensive abilities to become any more than an OK backup, but I'm starting to wonder if I was off. 70 plate appearances is a terribly small sample size, but Tejada is walking a decent amount for a middle infielder (7.1%), though not even quite as much as he did last year in 255 PA's (8.6%).
Most impressive has been Tejada's ability to make contact. He's currently making contact with 74.4% of pitches outside the strikezone, far higher than the major league average of 67.9%, and has been similarly impressive inside the strike zone as well, making contact with 95.8% of pitches. Both these numbers represent significant improvements from his stint in the majors last year. This type of data isn't available for minor league players, but I wonder in what way, if at all, this is related to his relative power explosion in AAA Buffalo.
Now, those contact numbers aren't quite as good as someone like Placido Polanco, who is probably regarded as the game's best contact hitter, and who has a total contact rate of 92% for his career, but Tejada's numbers are not that much lower. And keep in mind Tejada has shown an ability to draw walks early in his career that Polanco lacks.
I certainly don't want to suggest that Ruben Tejada is going to be as good as Placido Polanco, who is in the midst of a crazy good year, has had three or four legit All-Star caliber seasons, and once hit 17 home runs in 126 games, something Ruben will not be doing. But perhaps Tejada could be a real player for the Mets, whether taking over the starting 2B gig permanently, and perhaps even manning the position at an above-average level, forming a platoon with another Met 2B (like lefty batters Daniel Murphy and Reese Havens), or doubling as a really good backup SS/2B and a decent pinch hitter.
It's players like Tejada who make me wonder if the Mets lack of top talent in the upper minors is overblown (though Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Jeurys Familia might have something to say about that, anyway). The Mets already have a couple superstars on their roster in Jose Reyes and David Wright. They have Ike Davis, who seemed to be emerging as an All-Star before his injury, and Angel Pagan, who is an All-Star caliber player. Jon Niese should be a fixture near the top of the rotation, too.
Yes, eventually the Mets will need another really good player or two to replace Carlos Beltran, and probably in the rotation as well, assuming Johan Santana won't come back as the same old Johan Santana, but, mostly, what the Mets need is decent guys. Guys who can fill in positions competently for very little money, maybe even be better than average (or, dare I say, good!) allowing the Mets to spend their money more wisely on elite talent like Jose Reyes, rather than spreading it around to a bunch of veteran stopgaps. And ya know what, it looks like Ruben Tejada could be one of those decent guys.