With Jhonny Peralta Out to Start 2016 Season, Ruben Tejada Will Fill in Nicely for Cardinals at Shortstop
After star shortstop Jhonny Peralta went down with a thumb injury in early March, many Cardinals fans were worried that the team would be without a quality option at that position for the first few months of the season. At the time, Jedd Gyorko and Aledmys Diaz were the only two options. While both of them probably were considered serviceable options at the plate, they had their defensive deficiencies. The Cardinals could have certainly taken the risk and been fine, but General Manager John Mozeliak signed Ruben Tejada.
While Tejada might not be the greatest defensive player ever, he’s certainly more athletic than Gyorko and Diaz, and much more experienced at the position. Unfortunately, Tejada has committed 43 errrors in his career, which is a little bit too high.
— NYT Sports (@NYTSports) March 26, 2016
At the plate, Tejada is a career .255 hitter that draws a lot of walks while keeping the number of strikeouts low. Tejada won’t hit for much power, but he’ll maintain a respectable batting average during Peralta’s extended absence.
The best case scenario for the Cardinals with this Tejada signing is if the young shortstop takes advantage of the only real opportunity he has left before Spring Training to prove himself in this league. Tejada will want to show clubs that he is valuable, so hopefully he can bring his average up to around .270 and keep the number of errors to a minimum.
I know this is the typical “contract year” argument, but it really makes sense for a 26 year-old talented shortstop who is receiving a second chance in his baseball career from a veteran team with championship expectations. If Tejada can be willing to learn during his time in St. Louis, there is no stopping his ability to do more than just fill in for Jhonny Peralta.
Bernie: my deep-dive look at new Cardinals SS, Ruben Tejada — a solution or just a mediocre placeholder? https://t.co/fa0dhmxYvy
— Bernie Miklasz (@miklasz) March 19, 2016
Even if Tejada struggles to begin the season, one thing he provides is experience over Aledmys Diaz. Since Peralta went down, it was clear that Diaz stepped up his game in Spring Training. The young shortstop delivered clutch hits, was solid in the field, and brought an aggressive mentality to the plate. But, Diaz does not yet have enough at-bats at AAA Memphis, so this provides him more time to hone his craft. In the very least, Tejada is buying time for Diaz to get acclimated to good pitching.
I would expect Jedd Gyorko to spell Tejada at shortstop every few games or so. Gyorko, a power-hitting middle infielder, is already a better hitter than Tejada and would provide the Cardinals with more pop in the lineup. If the Cardinals start the season struggling to put runs on the board, don’t be surprised if you see Mike Matheny making the switch at shortstop.