As the New York Mets gear up for Opening Day against the Washington Nationals on Mar. 31, one important question remains: Who will play more games at shortstop this season—Ruben Tejada or Wilmer Flores?
That's not a lot to choose from, truth be told.
It appears unlikely free agent Stephen Drew will be signed at his current asking price. The Mets are monitoring Arizona’s Didi Gregorious and Seattle's Nick Franklin as possibilities, but they seem reluctant to part with a young pitcher in return.
So, with the regular season just five days away, it appears the choice comes down to either Tejada or Flores.
Which player will end up playing more games at shortstop?
As presently constituted, Tejada seems to be the heavy favorite, especially with the news on Monday that Flores was sent to minor league camp. Flores is expected to play a lot of shortstop at Triple-A Las Vegas in case Tejada falls flat on his face again.
That would not shock anyone.
Let's face it—Tejada is New York's starting shortstop by default. Despite injuries, demotions and poor performance last season, the 24-year-old Tejada will be the starting shortstop on Opening Day.
That's not a confidence booster for Mets fans.
With that being said, Tejada has played better in the latter stages of spring training. In his last five contests, the Veraguas, Panama, native is hitting .400 (6-for-15) with two doubles and one RBI.
That brought his spring batting average up to .229. That's not great by any means, but at least it's a step in the right direction.
More importantly though, Tejada has improved his defense after a very shaky start. That's Tejada's most important role on the team—playing solid defense up the middle of the diamond. Sure, the Mets would love Tejada to hit .300 but his defensive work is priority No. 1.
Flores, on the other hand, hit .239 with two home runs and nine RBI in 42 Grapefruit League at-bats, but he does not have the range that Tejada does at shortstop.
That's a key factor in Mets management going with Tejada as their Opening Day starter. Meanwhile, Flores will get plenty of work at shortstop with the Las Vegas 51s.
The 22-year-old Flores certainly has more power than Tejada. He has more offensive upside.
He's a work in progress, though, defensively and would certainly need to leap frog Omar Quintanilla on New York's shortstop depth chart.
That's why Tejada is the player to bet on playing more games at shortstop this upcoming season for the Mets.