Wilfredo Tovar Won’t Start Tonight, But Available Off Bench
With Ruben Tejada lost for the season due to a broken leg, the Mets have promoted shortstop Wilfredo Tovar. According to today’s media notes, he is not in tonight’s starting lineup, but will be available off the bench to Terry Collins.
I had the privilege of enjoying a summer of baseball watching Wilfredo Tovar play shortstop in Binghamton. The knock on Tovar is he’s a prototypical “good field – no stick” infielder. Good field simply doesn’t do Wilfredo Tovar’s defensive play justice, “magnificent field” might be more like it.
At 5’10 inches tall and only some 160 pounds, Tovar doesn’t attract the attention commanded by many modern day baseball players. That is until you see this kid field a baseball. Great hands and a quick first step that allows him to move laterally, either deep into the hole between third and short or travel behind the second base, bag help Tovar complete circus-like infield plays on an almost daily basis. The young shortstop has great arm strength with a lightning quick ball release and pin point accuracy that help make Tovar an elite, major league ready, defensive shortstop.
Most telling this summer was the brief time Tovar was not in the B-Met line-up. It was quickly apparent, the B-Mets infield play suffered greatly when their dynamic defensive shortstop was not available.
Tovar hit .263 with four homers and 36 RBIs in 441 at-bats with Binghamton this season.
The “no stick” rap on Tovar might also have holes. Yes, Tovar, a line drive, contact hitting type, is not a batter expected to give you extra base power at the plate. Yet, Tovar is a gritty, consistent, dependable hitter.
Tovar’s .263 batting average in 2013 is a bit deceiving. The B-Met shortstop got off to a horrid start in the batting box but battled back hitting a whisker under .300 after the All-Star break or raise his average over 35 points in the second half of the year.
Tovar, 22, is tough out, a kid who is difficult to strike out. Tovar fanned 53 times in High-A ball in 2011, 39 times in 2012 and 49 times in Binghamton this summer. Of the 49 Eastern League players who had 400 at-bats or higher, only two had fewer strike-outs than Tovar.
Underrated, unsung, and almost unnoticed, Wilfredo Tovar profiles as a major league shortstop, especially if he can find a team built around great pitching with enough batting surrounding him to support his low power wattage hitting stats.
Whatever the case, unless the Mets go outside the system to find a major league shortstop, Tovar should be in the conversation determining who plays short.
About the Author: John Bernhardt
John Bernhardt is a retired public school teacher and administrator, who still coaches high school baseball. Growing up in a Yankees household, Bernhardt was an ardent Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra fan. When the Yankees fired Yogi in his first season as the Bomber manager, curiosity turned to passion when the Mets signed Berra as a player/coach and he has pulled for the Mets ever since. In retirement, John writes the sports for a local weekly, The Catskill Mountain News and hosts Tip-Off, a Friday morning sports hour, from 8:00-9:00 on WIOX, 91.3 F.M.
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