#11 – SS Ruben Tejada

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 5’11”/165

Acquired: NDFA (7/11/06)

Born: 9/1/89 (Veraguas, Panama)

2009 Rank: 19

Why Ranked Here: Tejada moves up eight spots because he was one of the most pleasant surprises in the Mets system in 2009, more than holding his own in AA at age 19.  Now 20, he’s on the cusp of his MLB debut thanks to Jose Reyes’ thyroid problem.  For Tejada, that’s great, but for the Mets, that’s not.

Tejada made nice adjustments over the course of 2009, eliminating a sizable leg kick (seen in the accompanying picture) that he used to trigger his swing.  By the time he reached the Arizona Fall League in November, his swing was simpler with a much smaller leg kick that looked more like a plant.  He’s stayed with a similar approach this spring.  Given that his offensive game is predicated on contact, any change that allows him to wait longer on a pitch is a good thing.

Despite a strong season at AA, there are still questions about Tejada’s offensive game.  He’s not very strong, and generates very little power.  Tejada hit just five HR in’09, with an extra base hit in just 5.79 % of his plate appearances in AA, which was up from an anemic 4.5% the previous year in the Florida State League.  Moreover, his approach is focused more on putting the ball in play, rather than working deep counts.  As a result, he walked in only 6.7% of his plate appearances at AA.  To be a major force at the plate, he’ll need either to hit for more power with added strength coming as he ages, or a few more walks, or more likely, a little of both.

The saving grace for Tejada is that even if his offensive game doesn’t grow dramatically, he will still have value as a fine defensive shortstop.  Just as has been the case throughout his professional career, Tejada plays a strong shortstop currently with average range and an average arm.  He’s more comfortable going to his left up the middle than he is going into the hole for a backhand.

The ability to play shortstop is absolutely central to Tejada’s value as a prospect.  In 2009 alone, Rafael Fural, Elvis Andrus, Ryan Theriot, Jimmy Rollins, Alexei Ramirez and Stephen Drew were all worth between 2.2 and 3.0 WAR despite below average offensive production on the strength of playing average or better defense at short.

I wrote last week that Tejada should be the Mets starting shortstop while Reyes recuperates.  That really doesn’t move Tejada around on this list.  He’ll make a little contact, but nearly guarantees the Mets below average offensive production, just better than Alex Cora.

2009: Tejada made lots of contact, striking out in fewer than 11% of his plate appearances against older players.

Dr. Pangloss Says: As suggested by reader “Big Baby”: Placido Polanco

Debbie Downer Says: Anderson Hernandez-type

Projected 2010 Start: MLB

MLB Arrival: April, 2010

08 FSL 131 497 114 19 4 2 41 77 8 5 .229 .293 .296 4 7.39 13.87 4.50 .265
08 HWB 24 86 20 3 1 0 7 14 2 2 .233 .284 .291 2 7.29 14.58 4.17 .270
09 AA 134 488 141 24 3 5 37 59 19 3 .289 .351 .381 2 6.69 10.67 5.79 .319
09 AFL 17 59 15 4 0 1 6 9 4 0 .254 .338 .373 1 8.82 13.24 7.35 .280

There are 7 comments

  1. mark4212

    If he can consistently replicate his AA numbers at at the big league level he’ll have a starting spot around the majors. .289 average with a .351 OBP and the potential to steal 20 bases would easily be better then half of the league’s starting Shortstops. Throw in good solid defense and he’ll have a very long MLB career.

    This is assuming he can replicate those numbers year after year.

    1. Toby Hyde

      And batting average guys like Tejada will have wider swings in their value/production than patience and power type rakers.

  2. mistermet

    Toby–Do you think Orlando Cabrera (with slightly less power) would also be a good comp for Tejada, if his offense does develop correctly?

  3. Michael Diaz

    Tejada while still very young, has yet to show anything explosive about his game. He seems to lack the fast twitch skill set, to become an impact either with the bat or on the basepaths. Nothing stands out about him, everything is avg to solid. As Toby says, solid defense and high contact rates should keep him around for a while.

    1. Not4Nuttin

      Its funny, because sometimes guys with no obvious standout skill set, just keep producing despite lacking the “wow” factor, and put together a solid ML career. Hopefully, Tejada fits into this group, instead of the seemingly dime-a-dozen slick fielding, light hitting, middle infielders.

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