This is a painful one to write. Not that there’s anything wrong with Ruben Tejada- the 22-year-old profiles as perfectly average at the position, with no real weakness either offensively or defensively, but alas, no real strength, either. He’s young, so he could develop further, but it isn’t like he has some plus-plus talent like speed or a great arm that has yet to be converted into production. Tejada, at least in 2012, is what he is. Let’s see where that leaves him within the division:
1. Miami Marlins: obviously, this is where the Mets would find themselves if they’d brought back Jose Reyes. It is unrealistic to expect him to replicate the .337 batting average that won him the batting title last year, but all the projection systems have him around .300/.350/.450 this year. Call it a hunch, I have a feeling he’ll exceed that slugging percentage. He slugged .493 last year, and though some of that would come down with the batting average, he had home runs on just 3.9% of his fly balls, around the lowest percentage of his career. My suspicion is that will go up in 2012. He’ll be tremendous for Miami. And it will seem surreal.
2. Philadelphia Phillies: Jimmy Rollins isn’t what he used to be. The 2007 NL MVP put up a .296/.344/.531 line that year. In 2011, his slash line was just .268/.338/.399. The projection systems have him rebounding somewhat, but even if he simply stays the same, his plus defense and solid production make him the division’s second-best shortstop. He turned 33 in November, however, so how much longer that will be true is an open question.
3. New York Mets: I actually expected to find the Nationals here, but Ian Desmond, unlike Tejada, seems to have a bunch of holes in his game that more than make up for his advantage over Tejada in power and speed. Most of the projection systems have Tejada taking a step back from his .360 on-base percentage last year, which lands him around a .260/.340/.330 kind of season with average defense. For reference, NL shortstops were .261/.314/.374 last season.
4. Washington Nationals: Here’s the thing with Desmond- you’ll probably get a 20 point OPS advantage over Tejada. Projection systems have him around .260/.310/.380. But notice that it is a bit heavier on the slugging end, mitigating the OPS advantage. And Desmond has been a below-average defender at the position. Add in my suspicion that Tejada has more room left to develop, and here we are.
5. Atlanta Braves: Bet they wish they still had Yunel Escobar, who wasn’t exceptional, but is a good bet to put up a better season than either Tyler Pastornicky, who is a nominal prospect, or Andrelton Simmons, who is a better prospect due to his glove, but doesn’t appear major league-ready with the bat. Expect the Braves to upgrade here if they are in contention.