20-year-old Tena wins AFL batting title

November 20th, 2021

MESA, Ariz. -- On the same day that the Cleveland organization officially received its new name, Jose Tena ushered in the Guardians era by winning the Arizona Fall League batting title.

Tena, 20, finished his time with the Scottsdale Scorpions sporting a .387 batting average across 17 games. He collected seven extra-base hits and nine RBIs, walking (10) as many times as he struck out (10). Competition for the top spot was fierce, but Tena held off Cubs’ No. 29 prospect Nelson Velazquez (.385) and Pirates’ No. 4 prospect Nick Gonzales (.380) for the honor.

“I focused on continuing to improve my batting, and I kept focusing more on what I want to look for in batting,” Tena said through interpreter Ashley Magdaleno of MLB.com.. “I focused on not swinging at bad pitches, and that's why I think I succeeded.”

Tena, Guardians’ No. 12 prospect, jumped from High-A Lake County to the premier spot for Minor League competition this fall. Despite being the fourth-youngest player in the AFL, he acclimated himself against a top tier of talent.

“They're all really good,” Tena said of the pitchers in the Fall League. “Every turn I had, I gave it my best.”

Facing older competition is nothing new for the infielder. Of his 447 plate appearances during the regular season, only four came against younger players.

After roping 16 home runs and 42 extra-base hits at High-A, the native of San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic, did not put a ball over the fence in Arizona. In the wake of his first foray into a full Minor League season, the left-handed hitter has continued to hit.

The nephew of 16-year big leaguer Juan Uribe, Tena boasts familial ties to the game. That experience and advice has helped mold his early acclimation to the Minors. What tidbits has Uribe -- a member of the Cleveland organization in 2016 -- passed down?

“To always be disciplined and to focus on the task I have to do,” Tena said. “To continue to keep bettering myself on the small things. Also, to always be disciplined with my teammates.”

Tena spent the vast majority of his time in 2021 holding down the shortstop spot, where he made 81 starts for Lake County. But on a shortstop-heavy Scottsdale squad, he primarily slid over to second base, making 11 starts, matching his regular-season total.

Focusing on just one position isn’t paramount for Tena, whose 55 fielding is tied for his best-ranked attribute. At his young age, he will have time to develop around the infield until the Guardians will potentially have to make a decision about where he could best impact their roster. Cleveland added Tena to its 40-man roster on Friday, protecting the infielder from being selected by another club in the Rule 5 draft. His approach to the future was simplistic.

“Wherever they give me the opportunity to play, I’ll play there."

Tena’s tenure in the AFL included multiple accolades, including being named to the league’s Fall Stars Game last Saturday, where he appeared as a pinch-hitter. While the season didn’t end with the Scorpions participating in the league’s championship game, Cleveland’s hard-hitting prospect deemed the experience “really fun.”

If the past six weeks were any indication, even more fun could await Tena in 2022.