Ruben Tejada has firmly grasped the reins of the shortstop job for the New York Mets. He survived a gauntlet of doubters, including a certain blogger who felt back in May that Tejada had no business being the Mets shortstop. Since then, he has been more than adequate in the field and at the plate.
Coming into Spring Training, Tejada looked lost. In the batter’s box, he couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat, and on the diamond, he looked like he’d completely forgotten how to play shortstop. His range was poor, his hands were unsure, and his double play turn was slow. Things turned around for Tejada when the Mets front office brought up Wilmer Flores on May 9. That move seemed to light a fire under Ruben, who has been accused in the past of lacking concentration.
Since that date, Tejada has hit .270 with a .376 on-base percentage – better than average for a No. 8 hitter, and not bad for anyone. Overall, he’s hitting .241/.351/.299. The slugging percentage is still lacking, but Tejada is not an extra-base hitter. What is important for Ruben is his on-base percentage. If he can keep that above .350, that means he’s not making too many outs.
He’s looked more confident defensively as well. His range has improved (now it’s about average), and he’s far more sure-handed. He’s also looked quicker around the second-base bag when he initiates a double play or turns it. According to Baseball Reference, his defensive WAR (wins above replacement) is 0.8, which is up from last year’s -0.4. Overall, he’s a 1-WAR player, which marks a significant upgrade from last year, when he was -1.1. That means the Mets are getting almost two extra wins out of him this year above a replacement player.
Of course, the Mets would still love to find a more accomplished offensive player at shortstop, especially one with more range. But they don’t come cheap. If Tejada keeps playing the way he is, New York won’t need to make a desperate trade to get one.