Sea Dogs’ Oscar Tejada Continues to Leap Through Hurdles

At the moment two words represent the biggest hurdle Oscar Tejeda may have to overcome in order to reach the major leagues with the Boston Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia.

But that shouldn’t be a major concern at the moment considering Tejeda just turned 21 last December 26 and the Red Sox placed him on their 40-man roster in November. (He signed as an international free agent in 2006 and received a $525,000 signing bonus).

The additional time he’ll spend in the minor leagues will enable him to refine his skills, both at the plate and in the field (the latter definitely is important considering Tejeda was moved from shortstop to second base prior to the 2010 season).

In his first 76 games this season at Portland, Tejeda’s hitting only .258 with 27 RBI and has a fielding percentage of .945.

And considering Tejeda also checks in at only 6-foot-1 and 177 pounds he’ll have time to put on some pounds (read mature physically) plus grow into his body.

Tejeda began his career in encouraging fashion by hitting well in rookie ball, first in the Gulf Coast League (.295) and then the New York-Penn League (.298) – at the ripe old age of 17. But Tejeda tailed off in each of his next two seasons each of which was spent at Greenville (.261 and .257) – two reasons being his youth and a series of health issues (a couple of years ago he underwent surgery to repair a hole in his heart).

In truth, 2010 was his first full season since he played 126 games while not having played more than 99 since he signed with Boston.

While working with Salem hitting coach Carlos Febles and Red Sox Minor League hitting coordinator Victor Rodriguez, Tejeda made an adjustment at the plate last season which helped him improve his batting average as well as his power numbers: he junked a big leg kick in favor of a small, inward turn of his left knee. His manager at Salem, Kevin Boles, referred to it as “tap and lunge.”

Through his first 84 games, Tejeda was hitting .313 which ranked fourth in the Carolina League and was voted to the Mid-Season All-Star Team. And when the final numbers were crunched, he finished at a highly commendable .307 which ranked fourth (the average also underscored that Tejeda wasn’t a dead pull hitter but rather used the entire field). In addition he belted 32 doubles which tied for sixth, hit a career-high 11 home runs, drove in 69 runs and posted a .455 slugging percentage which ranked eighth.

As a result, he was one of only four players in the league to finish with double figures in home runs and RBI.

“The kid’s bat speed and power – which should get better as he gets older and gains more experience – were impressive,” said an American League scout. “At times, the ball seemingly jumps off his bat. But also at times his swing is a bit long and he has more movement in his hands than I like before the pitch – even though it quiets down once the pitcher lets it go.”

Tejeda also needs to improve his plate discipline. That’s underscored by the fact he’s drawn only 103 walks and struck out 314 times in his four seasons.

“At times he has problems with off-speed pitches,” said the scout. “Obviously, he must do a better job of recognizing those types of pitches. But all things considered, he really impacted the ball. Depending on how he develops, I wouldn’t be surprised if he winds up hitting anywhere from 15 to 20 home runs a season.”

The flip side of the coin, or course, is his defense and what goes into learning a new position (although, since Tejeda also has played a little third base, his versatility could enhance his chances of climbing up the minor league ladder).

Tejeda is considered to be a solid, all-around athlete with good lateral range, a strong arm (some rate it as a plus arm), soft hands and a good glove. But, understandably, due in large part to his inexperience at a new position, he made 24 errors last season which translated into a .961 fielding percentage.

“His footwork could use a little improvement and he needs to be consistent when it comes to staying down on the ball,” said the scout. “Obviously when he doesn’t do that it means he’s staying straight up.

“From what I saw and in talking to people, he became better at turning double plays as the season progressed. And, of course, another part of learning to play any position is learning how to play hitters. Again, that’s something which comes with experience. But what you also have to consider is that while he had some problems transitioning to a new position, it really didn’t affect what he did with a bat in his hands.”

Perhaps that’s another way of saying Tejeda has confidence – a most valuable commodity regardless of sport.

Categories: Boston Red Sox Dustin Pedroia Oscar Tejeda Portland Sea Dogs

Sports editor at The Warwick (RI) Beacon from 1973-78. Sports writer at The Times (Pawtucket, RI) from 1978-1999. At The Times, I was the beat writer for the Pawtucket Red Sox and Providence College basketball. Retired from The Times in the fall of 1999. Have covered the Pawtucket Red Sox in one capacity or another since 1976. One of only two sports writers who covered The Longest Game (the 33-inning game between the Rochester Red Wings and Pawtucket in 1981). Member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame (Words Unlimited is a Rhode Island organization of sports writers, sports casters and sports publicists). Blogs in-season with a first-hand look at the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox.

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