Over the past few years, the outfield has been mediocre for the New York Mets. Jason Bay, Andres Torres, and other sub-par players have roamed the outfield grass at Citi Field.
Juan Lagares made the jump from Double-A to Triple-A in 2013 and, after performing rather well in the first handful of games, the Mets promoted the Dominican Republic native to the major leagues last year. Although he struggled to get adjusted to major league pitching, the 25-year-old has settled into his role with the Mets.
Hitting .279 this year, he now has the second-best average on the club behind Daniel Murphy, who is the only Met batting over .300. Following a solid first half of the season, Lagares cooled off in June and July, yet he has since started to heat up. Over the last 28 days, he is hitting .282 with 12 RBIs, and last night he hit his second home run in three games.
With his offensive abilities starting to reemerge, he continues to be among the best center fielders—if not the very best—in baseball. He's pacing National League center fielders with 29 defensive runs saved, far more than Arizona's Ender Inciarte and Cincinnati's Billy Hamilton. He also added another highlight-reel catch to his resume last night.
Here are some more interesting facts about Lagares courtesy of long-time Amazin' Avenue community member Gina:
The next three center fielders trailing Lagares in Fangraphs WAR are all over 500 plate appearances (Juan has 366).
Despite flashing great speed in the outfield he’s so far rated as a neutral/slightly negative base runner, so it’s possible that’s another place we could see him add some offensive value, especially as he gets more experience on the base paths.
Even with all his offensive holes he’s managed to be exactly average offensively.
While he does have a high BABIP he also has a huge line-drive rate and his BABIP isn’t actually well out of league with his comparable center fielders.
He also avoids hitting ground balls. If you think he’ll turn into a decent threat on the base paths then adding the infield hits to his repertoire will add some value. On the other hand, it also means he’s more likely to get sacrifice flies and avoid double plays and fielder’s choices.
As his career continues to progress, Lagares will be eyed as someone who can help lead the Mets back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Lagares is steadily improving, and an offensive surge is just what the team and its fans need at this point in the season.