Why not Tejada?

Opening Day is less than two weeks away, and Jose Reyes will be back on the field in Port St. Lucie tomorrow to resume baseball activities, so we all know we’ll be cheering Angel Pagan at the top of the order at Citi Field on April 5. What we don’t know is who we’ll be cheering at shortstop.

The likely answer to that query is veteran Alex Cora, but I’m starting to read more in support of giving 20-year-old Ruben Tejada a shot from the start. I can’t disagree with any of those points, particularly in that there’s no shame in failure. Give him a shot from the start, and if he’s in over his head after a week, 10 days, two weeks, send him down. Reyes could be back by then, or Cora could get a few starts until Reyes is ready.

Another reason I’m for it is the case of Elvis Andrus. Their minor league numbers are eerily similar, and though Andrus played four seasons on the farm to Tejada’s three (at this point), he was also signed a year younger, playing his first season at 16, while Tejada’s first season came at 17.

For a side-by-side comparison, I isolated their full seasons at high-Class A and Double-A and present them along with their minor-league totals.

ELVIS ANDRUS:

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2007 18 2 Teams A+ 126 563 495 78 127 22 3 5 49 40 15 54 107 .257 .338 .343 .682 170
2008 19 Frisco AA 118 535 482 82 142 19 2 4 65 54 16 38 91 .295 .350 .367 .717 177
4 Seasons 407 1789 1598 256 439 73 10 15 185 125 50 151 321 .275 .343 .361 .704 577
Rk (1 season) 52 213 184 29 54 7 1 3 21 8 4 23 32 .293 .380 .391 .772 72
A+ (1 season) 126 563 495 78 127 22 3 5 49 40 15 54 107 .257 .338 .343 .682 170
A (1 season) 111 478 437 67 116 25 4 3 50 23 15 36 91 .265 .324 .362 .685 158
AA (1 season) 118 535 482 82 142 19 2 4 65 54 16 38 91 .295 .350 .367 .717 177
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/23/2010.

RUBEN TEJADA:

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2007 17 2 Teams FRk-Rk 67 298 241 45 78 9 3 3 41 18 6 38 35 .324 .434 .423 .857 102
2008 18 St. Lucie A+ 131 555 497 55 114 19 4 2 37 8 5 41 77 .229 .293 .296 .588 147
2009 19 Bing. AA 134 553 488 59 141 24 3 5 46 19 3 37 59 .289 .351 .381 .732 186
3 Seasons 332 1406 1226 159 333 52 10 10 124 45 14 116 171 .272 .346 .355 .700 435
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/23/2010.

No one can be sure that Tejada will become the same Major Leaguer that Andrus has — Tejada doesn’t have the gaudy stolen-base totals in the minors, and he wouldn’t be given the job for the season — but there seem to be a lot of similarities between the two, leading me to believe there’s at least a hint of Tejada’s future when looking at Andrus. To me, that’s worth a look when the season opens if your starting shortstop won’t be there anyway.

I also had this link saved for eventual extrapolation, and going back to look at it now, I noticed it’s the same type of comparison, only with a much bigger upside: Ike Davis has eerily similar minor league numbers to Ryan Braun. Davis was sent down to minor league camp this morning, and the situation with him is different from Tejada’s because the Mets have their incumbent first baseman healthy and in the lineup … and he just struck out to end the inning in today’s exhibition game against the Braves.
I like Daniel Murphy, but having seen what Davis can do, I’m quickly moving toward his side of the argument. With the seasons the Mets have had the last three years, the money and prospects they’ve parted with to bring in the likes of Johan Santana, Jason Bay, Oliver Perez, Francisco Rodriguez, etc., having a couple of young, homegrown prospects making the leap to the big leagues would be refreshing and a sign of good things to come. It could be just what this franchise needs.
Part of what hurt so much about losing the NLCS in 2006 was that seemed like The Year, the best chance to win a World Series. Pedro Martinez had a great season and we didn’t know if he’d hold up for the remaining years on his contract (bingo), Cliff Floyd had a solid season, David Wright and Reyes became MVP candidates and Tom Glavine was getting on in years, too. The window, it seemed, was as wide open as it would get and it would only begin to close in the following years. Turns out it remained open through most of 2007, until a sudden, late storm that September slammed it shut.
Heading into 2010, the window might not even be open yet. Maybe it’s cracked half an inch. (Error by Luis Castillo follows Yunel Escobar’s wind-aided homer to right-center off of Oliver Perez; that window isn’t opening any more at the moment.) The Mets are a team in need of a breath of fresh air, and Jason Bay, as talented and likable as he is, is more of a zephyr than the strong gust they need to unfurl the sails and really take off.
Wow, that metaphor really took off, too. Jeez.

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