Ruben Tejada and Rose-Colored Glasses

After a surprising yet short mini-battle on twitter the other day, I decided it was time to revisit my analysis on the second base position. No, this won't be about Justin Turner - this will instead be a look at Ruben Tejada with my rose-colored glasses on. Happy, OGTedBerg and FireJerryManuel? I'm giving it a shot.

The crux of the argument is that Tejada is so young. We've followed this folly down the road with Fernando Martinez very recently, though - youth can only get you so far. At some point you have to produce.

In any case, I ran a play index query through Baseball-Reference.com to find out how many second baseman had debuted at 20 or 21 and accrued 100+ plate appearances since 1960. Those are some random cutoffs, I admit, but I was aiming to get 'modern era' debuts of 'significant' proportions, and the list that was returned was an interesting one. Take a gander.

Rk Player PA Year Age Tm Lg G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Roberto Alomar 611 1988 20 SDP NL 143 545 84 145 24 6 9 41 47 5 83 3 24 6 .266 .328 .382 .709
2 Delino DeShields 572 1990 21 MON NL 129 499 69 144 28 6 4 45 66 3 96 4 42 22 .289 .375 .393 .768
3 Rod Carew 561 1967 21 MIN AL 137 514 66 150 22 7 8 51 37 4 91 2 5 9 .292 .341 .409 .750
4 Paul Molitor 556 1978 21 MIL AL 125 521 73 142 26 4 6 45 19 2 54 4 30 12 .273 .301 .372 .673
5 Hal Lanier 401 1964 21 SFG NL 98 383 40 105 16 3 2 28 5 0 44 0 2 1 .274 .283 .347 .630
6 Dalton Jones 401 1964 20 BOS AL 118 374 37 86 16 4 6 39 22 2 38 1 6 3 .230 .274 .342 .616
7 Mark Lewis 336 1991 21 CLE AL 84 314 29 83 15 1 0 30 15 0 45 0 2 2 .264 .293 .318 .612
8 Danny Ainge 331 1979 20 TOR AL 87 308 26 73 7 1 2 19 12 1 58 2 1 0 .237 .269 .286 .554
9 Roberto Mejia 248 1993 21 COL NL 65 229 31 53 14 5 5 20 13 1 63 1 4 1 .231 .275 .402 .676
10 Ruben Tejada 206 2010 20 NYM NL 63 175 25 36 8 0 1 13 16 3 32 7 2 2 .206 .294 .269 .562
11 Asdrubal Cabrera 186 2007 21 CLE AL 45 159 30 45 9 2 3 22 17 0 29 2 0 0 .283 .354 .421 .775
12 Luis Castillo 180 1996 20 FLA NL 41 164 26 43 2 1 1 8 14 0 46 0 17 4 .262 .320 .305 .625
13 Glenn Hubbard 179 1978 20 ATL NL 44 163 15 42 4 0 2 13 10 1 20 2 2 1 .258 .309 .319 .628
14 Ruben Gotay 166 2004 21 KCR AL 44 152 17 41 7 3 1 16 9 0 36 2 0 1 .270 .315 .375 .690
15 Rennie Stennett 165 1971 20 PIT NL 50 153 24 54 5 4 1 15 7 0 9 0 1 1 .353 .377 .458 .834
16 Cesar Izturis 140 2001 21 TOR AL 46 134 19 36 6 2 2 9 2 0 15 0 8 1 .269 .279 .388 .667
17 Steve Sax 127 1981 21 LAD NL 31 119 15 33 2 0 2 9 7 1 14 0 5 7 .277 .317 .345 .662
18 Wally Backman 110 1980 20 NYM NL 27 93 12 30 1 1 0 9 11 1 14 1 2 3 .323 .396 .355 .751
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/15/2010.

 

Hey, would you look at that, Wally Backman makes the list. Maybe he can tutor the young second baseman from the dugout next year.

Funny stuff aside, I don't think the anyone would argue that Tejada will be the next Roberto Alomar, Rod Carew or Paul Molitor, so let's sort of let the top half of the list simmer. Those stats seem out of reach for Ruben, but they were already if you considered their respective minor league statistics. Even with Ruben Tejada's recent hot streak, it looks like Asdrubal Cabrera's modest debut is out of reach for this year as well, but it is interesting to see the similarities with his debut and Tejada's - they have similar walk and strikeout rates at the very least, and the faithcasted future for Tejada might contain a similar skillset for Tejada. Let's at least acknowledge the possibility that Tejada could get close to Cabrera even though he never put up a minor league season as nice as Cabrera's 2007 (.310/.380/.448 across Double-A Akron in the Eastern League and Triple-A Buffalo).

No, instead there is a name that jumps off the list here - a name that should be interesting to Mets fans. Look at old man Luis Castillo and you'll see a guy well equipped to help Tejada make the jump that he made as a young man. Castillo had a similar debut, but once again, his best minor league season before his debut (.317/.411/.393 in Double-A Portland in the Eastern League) looks better than Tejada's best. He was 20, in Double-A, and walking 13.3% of the time. Tejada was 19 in Double-A and walking 6.7%, or 20 in Triple-A and walking 5.7% of the time. Lastly, it took Castillo himself three or four years to be the real Luis Castillo, so there are plenty of reasons to think that Tejada does not equal Castillo.

To date, perhaps the best comp on the list is Mark Lewis. Lewis was 20 across Double-A and Triple-A, walked 5.7% of the time, and debuted with a slightly worse walk-to-strikeout ratio (1:3, where Tejada's is more 1:2.5), and then settled in around one walk to two strikeouts for the rest of his career (which looks like Tejada's minor league K/BB ratio). He had a .133 ISO in the minor leagues, Tejada a .080. Lewis peaked at 27 in San Francisco, with a .267/.318/.431 line that looks reachable for Tejada if you subtract some of the slugging percentage (which then makes the line a lot less exciting, as Lewis' best full-season line was only good for a 96 OPS+ by itself).

This year's small sample aside, the age of his debut doesn't mean much in the context of this list - even old Glenn Hubbard went to the cupboard and walked more at the same age and level in the minor leagues, debuted in the major leagues at the same age to similar results, and then put up a career .244/.328/.349 line (85 OPS+) that wouldn't have anyone reaching for the champagne. Tejada was worth a second look, but it just doesn't look that rosy for him, any way you slice it. Cheap backup middle infielder that makes the roster? Sure. Not sure there's more tricks up his sleeve though.

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