The Mets should play Wilmer Flores more, Ruben Tejada less

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

While Ruben Tejada has been passable as a major league shortstop in recent weeks, he shouldn't be taking playing time away from Wilmer Flores.

New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada has been mediocre over the past few weeks, prompting a rare air of positivity for the embattled shortstop. His slightly elevated play won’t last, however, and it’s time for the Mets to make some changes at the position.

Since he was called up to the major leagues in 2010, nobody mistook Tejada for an above-average hitter, even for a shortstop, but his strong 2011 and 2012 campaigns gave some hope that he could be at least an average regular. But a lackluster 2013, in which he hit just .202/.259/.260 cast doubt upon those hopes. Now, Tejada has seen a slight resurgence at the plate.

Tejada’s low batting average and slugging percentage this season have been buoyed by a solid .337 on-base percentage and a not-embarrassing 80 wRC+. If he is able to maintain these numbers, he would be a decent contributor, but they’re unsustainable.

Tejada has an eye-popping 14.2 percent walk rate this season that ranks in the top fifteen for players with at least 150 plate appearances, ahead of the likes of David Ortiz and Troy Tulowitzki. But his walk rate is unsustainable.

Six of Tejada’s walks have been intentional—walks that can’t be counted on and are generally given in front of the pitcher’s spot. Take those walks and plate appearances out of the equation, and Tejada has an 11.6 percent walk rate on the season. That’s still significantly higher than his 5.4 percent rate in 2012 and 6.6 percent rate in 2013. But in addition to the impending walk rate regression, Tejada has posted the lowest contact rate and the highest strikeout rate of his career.

Terry Collins should react to the peripheral statistics and establish a platoon at the position in which Tejada starts against left-handed pitchers and Wilmer Flores starts against right-handed pitchers—as opposed to playing the "hot hand" as he has recently. Tejada has performed well against left-handed pitchers throughout his career and specifically over the past two seasons, justifying some playing time, but he has been terrible against right-handed pitching.

Ruben Tejada, 2013-14 AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
vs. LHP .275 .378 .353 .331 113
vs. RHP .187 .264 .248 .231 44

Flores hasn’t fared well at the plate early in his career and he has just a 63 wRC+ against righties, but his potential at the plate warrants significant playing time against right-handed pitchers. Flores’s sample size at the plate is too small to be definitive, while Tejada is a known quantity at this point.

While Flores has struggled at the plate, he has more than held his own defensively, which was thought to be his flaw throughout the minor leagues. As long as his solid play in the field continues, he needs to get at-bats versus righties and work through the growing pains. Tejada doesn’t excel in any facet of the game, and while Flores hasn’t either, he has might in the future. He should be getting consistent playing time, not only to show the Mets what he can do, but to help the team win games now.

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