brian (Brooklyn NY): Are you a believer in Josh Thole? He cant be worse than Schneider and Santos, right?
Kevin Goldstein: If that's your litmus test in me believing in him, then yet. Not a great defender, but can hit. Best comp I've heard from a scout is Darrin Fletcher.
I believe that the "yet" should be a "yes," in a chat-induced typo. I've already posted about Thole yesterday, so we're not going to go over this again, but he should see some big league action in September.
Carl (Buffalo, NY): When do you see Ruben Tejada making an impact in the majors and what kind of impact do you see him making?
I thought this answer was a little flip, so I responded:
Toby (www.metsminorleagueblog.com): re: Tejada & Enrique Wilson Don't you have to acknowledge that Tejada's hitting .285/.350/.366 at age 19 is more impressive than anything in Wilson's MiLB track record? Wilson was in the Appy League at 19 and didn't reach AA until age 22 when he hit .304/.346/.390. I'm not arguing that Tejada will be a star, because he lacks power, but I think you're a little light on him.
Kevin Goldstein: First off, NOBODY covers the Mets system in depth as well as Toby. Second, I think you are taking the comp far too literally. I'm saying Tejada is the kind of guy who could be an occasional starter, mostly utility guys who last for around a decade, that's all.
I get where Goldstein is going: Tejada's going to be a big leaguer, but never an impact guy, but I think that's Tejada's low-end outcome given what he's down at AA at his age going .282/.346/.363 in 122 games with 33 walks and 55 strikeouts in 443 AB.
Wilson played more than 100 games in a MLB season once, when played 113 games for Cleveland in 1999 at age 25 where he hit .262/.310/.352 . But lets move away from Enrique Wilson, to find a better comp for Tejada.
How does Tejada compare to the Mets current utility middle-infield type, Anderson Hernandez? Hernandez spent his age-19 season in the FSL where he hit .259/.310/.339 for Lakeland, striking out 102 times and walking 33 times in 410 AB over 123 G in 2002. He didn't reach reach AA until his age 21 season, two years older than Tejada, when he hit .274/.326/.376 in 101 games for Erie with 89 K and 26 walks. The thing distinguishing Hernandez and Tejada at the plate is Tejada's superior batting eye and many fewer strikeouts. In 2008, in the the FSL, Tejada fanned just 77 times in 131 games and earned 41 walks in 497 AB in 131 games. At a younger age, he was swinging and missing far less ofter than Hernandez, while walking more. So, Tejada has been better than Hernandez at the same level at a younger age.
On Tejada's PECOTA projections page at Prospectus, his second-best comp is Joaquin Arias, the player to be named later in the Yankees-Rangers trade of Alfonso Soriano for Alex Rodriguez. I know Arias's game well, he was with the Stockton Ports in 2004, when I broadcast for the team. In 2004, at age 19, Arias hit .300/.344/.396 in 500 AB over 123 games with just 53 strikeouts against 31 walks. That year, Arias engaged in a one-man crusade against the idea that there was no such thing as clutch hitting, when he hit something like .500 with the bases loaded, and had a big day on the penultimate day of the season going 2-2 with a double, a homer and 5 RBI to reach the .300 plateau before leaving the game, but we digress. He was more physical than Tejada but moved more mechanically to Tejada's fluididity. In any case, Arias's advanced-A numbers at age 19, look a lot like Tejada's AA numbers at age 19 even down to the same number of doubles (19 for Arias and 20 for Tejada). The problem with the comparison is that when Arias moved up to AA Frisco at age 20 in 2005, he walked roughly never in a .315/.335/.423 season with 17 walks against 46 K in 499 AB over 120 games. He would never walk 30 times in a season again. So, again, the problem is that Arias didn't walk as much as Tejada and was a year older, by the time he hit AA.
If Mets fans want to think wildly optimistically, how about Asdrubal Cabrera? A gifted defensive shortstop in the Mariners chain, Cabrera rose rapidly through the upper minors age 19 and then bounced around for two years before establishing himself as a regular at 22 and blossoming into a borderline star at age 23 in 2009. At age 19, Cabrera began the year in the Midwest Leage where he hit .318/.407/.474 in 51 games, showing fine plate discipline with 30 walks and 32 K. Promoted to the advanced-A California League, Cabrera hit .284/.325/.418 with 15 walks and 47 K in 225 AB over 55 games. The Mariners moved him up to AAA Tacoma to finish that season and had him begin the 2006 season at the same level at age 20 where he hit .236/.323/.360 with 24 BB and 51 K in 203 AB over 60 games. After the Indians stole him for Eduardo Perez, they assigned him to their AAA affiliate in Buffalo where he didn't hit much.
However, give the Indians credit. In 2007, they sent the 22 year old Cabrera back down to AA where he exploded for 8 HR as part of a .310/.383/.454 line in 96 games with Akron. He finished up with 45 games in the big leagues at age 21 hitting a solid .283/.354/.421. Cabrera held his own in the bigsas a 22-year old last year hitting .259/.346/.366 before becoming one of baseball's better hitting middle infielders at .313/.363/.447 in 2009. One of the differences between his 08 and his 09 was his BABIP which rose from .316 to .374 with a more modest uptick in his linedrive rate from 20.9% to 22.2%.
By the way, according to minorleaguesplits.com, Tejada has increased his LD% every year, reaching 14% this year.
Or for another wildly optimistic comp, how about Robinson Cano, who hit .280/.341/.366 in his first exposure to AA at age 20. I'll throw this out as non-sensical. Cano had already shown real game power by belting 14 HR in the SAL at age 19.
On the less whimsical side Jose Lopez, who owns a 1.5 WAR in '09, played in AA at age 19 as well, hitting .258/.303/.403 for AA San Antonio in '03. In 538 AB, Lopez didn't strike out much (56 whiffs) and rarely walked (27).
So, where does this leave Tejada? Pretty much where we started. His plate discipline is very unusual for a player of his age at AA: no other player in our brief look at middle infielders at AA walked as much as Tejada. However, because his power is so minimal, he will need to maintain that discipline. Moreover, as we've seen in these few examples, power really does develop later than other skills.
He's looking like a big leaguer, but his ultimate value is a wide open question. He's performed better at a younger age than some players who have been among the better offensive second basemen this year, while sharing similarities with guys like Arias who have never held a big league job. On the positive end, Tejada hold up well in comparison to Asdrubal Cabrera. Even in Cabrera's case, he needed nearly two full years in the upper minors at age 20 and 21, before realizing value in the big leagues.
So use this as a note of caution on Tejada's timetable as well. Let him go to the AFL this year. Let him start 2010 in AAA. His own performance and development will indicate much more fully what he can become. I'm also looking forward to what PECOTA and the other projection systems come up with for Tejada this winter.
fjm(anuel) (ny): Speaking of the tough life of a first base prospect, can Ike Davis hit enough to be a mid-order big league hitter?
Kevin Goldstein: I think it's borderline. He's definitely looking good of late, but future stud? Not so sure.
brian (brooklyn): Is Kirk Nieuwenhuis any kind of a prospect?
Kevin Goldstein: Capt. Kirk (he's a Met for those not familiar) is one of the hottest hitters in the Florida State League, and yes, he's at least some kind of prospect.
More Nieu-y from BA:
Lance (Memphis): With his strong finish to the season and his combination of power and speed, Nieuwenhuis seems to be making a case to be among the Mets top 10 prospects. Where do you think he ranks among Mets prospects?J.J. Cooper: He's got to be in the discussion. He's among the Mets minor league leaders in HRs and SBs and has shown that he could handle skipping low Class A. He just turned 22, so it's good that he did skip low A from a developmental standpoint. As far as having a combination of speed, power and an ability to hit, Nieuwenhuis ranks among the better Mets prospects. One aside with this. In looking up where Nieuwenhuis ranked in the Mets organization in multiple categories, it jumps out that no one in the Mets system has more than 18 stolen bases this year, which is pretty shocking for the team that always used to have an Esix Snead, Wayne Lydon or Angel Pagan bouncing around.