Will the real Mark Teahen please stand up?
Born and raised in southern California, Teahen attended Yucaipa High School and three years of St. Mary's Collegiate before getting drafted by General Manager Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics in the first round of the 2002 amateur entry draft. Upon signing, Teahen was instantly plugged into Low-A ball and became a force to be reckoned with offensively, before slowing down tremendously playing up a level in Modesto, California, the Athletics' High-A affiliate. In 2003, he surged through in that level, hitting a respectable .278/.377/.362 line with 20 doubles in 102 games. In 2004, the A's promoted him to AA Midland, where he hit an astonishing .335/.419/.543 for the Rockhounds. After hitting a .774 OPS in 20 games in AAA Sacramento, Teahen was packaged with teammate Mike Wood and New Orleans Zephyrs catcher John "Mr. Incredible" Buck to the Kansas City Royals in a blockbuster, three-way trade that would send outfielder Carlos Beltran to the Houston Astros and relief pitcher Octavio Dotel to the Athletics.
Committing, once again, to a full-fledged rebuilding movement, the Royals considered Teahen their third baseman of the future - a successor to the steadily declining Joe Randa. While John Buck and Mike Wood were promoted instantly to the big club, the Royals decided to hold arguably their best prospect return back in AAA Omaha. Teahen performed not overwhelmingly, but respectably, posting a .280/.344/.447 line in 246 at-bats, clubbing 15 doubles and 8 home runs. After 27 at-bats in Omaha the following season, he made his Major League debut with the Royals in April, and emerged as the full-time third baseman. At age 23, Teahen struggled fairly consistently with the club, demonstrating promosing plate discipline, speed, and baserunning ability but not providing overwhelming defense or pop.
The following season, Teahen began the year poorly once again, and although he had already been featured on several Kansas City-area Royals television advertisements, he was demoted to Omaha. He reiterated his offensive capabilities in southeastern Nebraska, clubbing 14 extra base hits in 24 games. From may through early September, it became Mark Teahen's world - and we were merely living in it. He combined .815, 1.134, and .905 OPS'es for the following three months, clubbing 15 home runs, 5 triples, and 19 doubles. He would finish the season with BABip's of .344, .333, .362, and .333, respectively, excellent by any standard. Unfortunately, he would miss most of September with a scheduled back surgery, in preparation for a full recovery by the following Spring Training.
Attached is a brief synopsis from Baseball America, in 2005. Encouraging, indeed.
"He was probably the best third baseman in the Texas League. He's got the whole package as a guy who can hit and plays good defense at third."
I predict a shinier, prettier 2008 for one potential franchise cornerstone. Here are my projections for Mark Teahen's 2008 season:
Experiences significant dropoff overall: 10%
2007 Teahen, slightly improved: 45%
Repeats 2007 form: 25%
Reverts to late 2006 form: 20%
Injured for 15 days or more: 15%
Chances traded before Opening Day: 5%
Chances traded mid-season: <5%
Starting corner outfielder: 80%
Starting first baseman: 15%
Starting third baseman: (<)5%
- Well above average baserunning skills (30:7 SB:CS ratio)
- Solid contact hitter (.274 lifetime BA, .333 lifetime BABip)
- Above average plate discipline (+87 BA/OBP split in Minors)
- Strong arm in right field (17 assists last season in right field)
- Has not consistently demonstrated doubles and home run power in neither the Majors nor the Minors
- Struggles mightily against lefties (79 OPS+ career against southpaws)
- Will provide average-at-best production for a corner outfielder, where offensive production is typically more demanding than that of a third baseman
- Struggles vs. power pitchers (.232/.322/.381 career)
I would like to broadcast a newsflash for all Royals fans throughout the blogosphere and nation: the May-through-September 2006 version of Mark Teahen was merely a mirage. Teahen's chances of clubbing 25 home runs, 40 doubles, or repeating that unprobable .500 slugging percentage at the big-league level are about the same as Jorge De La Rosa posting a sub-4 ERA in 180 innings next season: slim to nil. However, I believe he will improve his already considerable contact ability, demonstrate even better plate discipline, maintain his baserunning skills, improve his power somewhat, and maintain comfortable range and a well above average arm in the corner outfield.
Teahen's defensive capabilities often go underrated, even among the most optimistic of Royals fans. Although his range factor was a good, but not overwhelming, 2.45 last season, he posted a team-high and league-high 17 assists in right field. Although one can reasonably expect that number to decrease somewhat next season - the argument that Teahen possesses a cannon of an arm is certainly fair. His presence in the outfield - combined with all those assists - will certainly prevent opposing baserunners from taking that extra base that much more often.
I believe Teahen's lack of power ability is overexposed in the #3 hole. However, I expect Teahen to contribute as a force in the #2 or #6 slot in the Royals lineup for many years. He will demonstrate the pure-contact abilities and on-base abilities, while possessing an above average arm.
A more accurate question for this topic should be:
What do you expect from Mark Teahen in 2008?