The Mets will have to make the ugly decision to play either Alex Cora or Ruben Tejada at SS in Jose Reyes’ absence. My first thought was that they’re really, really going to miss Reyes. My second thought was that both players are going to be offensive sinks, so the gains from one to the other are very small at best. But which guy should they choose?
So, lets turn to the projections for the two players. I’ve compared the weighted means generated by most recent build of Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA system for the two players below. For years, PECOTA has outperformed the other available projection systems. However, BP has really been struggling with PECOTA this year while making a long-overdue attempt to modernize their backend architecture. It seems that they now have enough of the bugs worked out that I’m comfortable using it.
I hate to say it, but those numbers for Cora feel a little optimistic coming off a .251/.320/.310 campaign in 2009. Cora is on record saying he can do better, and his broken thumbs hurt his offensive output in 2009. I’m sympathetic to this argument, but the fact is that he’s cleared a .320 OBP and a .360 SLG just once in the last six years. In the other five, I believe, his thumbs were intact. At Fangraphs, Bill James, CHONE and Marcel put Cora around .250/.320/.340, which is close enough.
CHONE is the only one of the systems hosted by Fangraphs to evaluate Tejada, pegging him for an unimpressive .237/.291/.316 line. Tejada, lest you forget hit .289/.351/.381 for AA Binghamton in 2009.
Obviously, Tejada, as the younger player by 15 years, is a much better bet to improve.
Defensively, by UZR, Cora has been a few runs below average the last two years, after playing a few runs above average for the preceding three seasons. Total zone has also not liked Cora’s work defensively recently. I firmly believe that Tejada would outplay Cora defensively. A middle infield of Cora and Luis Castillo would be murder on Mike Pelfrey, but not on the grounders pitchers try to generate.
And the Winner is:
The Phillies. And the Braves.
And Tejada, weakly.
The Mets need Reyes on the field to mount a playoff challenge. In the interim, the Mets can use the final three weeks until Opening Day to figure out whether Tejada’s defensive advantage is as real as I think it is. Either way, the team will be getting very poor production from their SS position. Tejada at least makes a lot of contact, so with balls in play, he’ll have a chance to put up a decent batting average for a month.
Adam Rubin believes it’ll be Tejada on Opening Day.
Kevin Goldstein thinks the Mets should go with Tejada:
This wouldn’t be another case of the Mets curbing the development of some high-ceiling prospect by rushing him to the majors; Tejada is pretty much all he’s ever going to be right now, and he’s certainly not going to be worse than Cora.