Could Juan Lagares Become The Odd Man Out In The Outfield?

By Former Writers

February 2, 2014 9 Comments

Juan Lagares

The news coming out of Flushing the past couple of days is starting to point to what may be a difficult pill for many Mets fans to swallow—Juan Lagares is starting to look like the odd man out in the Mets outfield in 2014.

For whatever reason, Terry Collins seems happy heading into 2014 with Eric Young Jr being the leadoff hitter in the Mets’ lineup. Adam Rubin, of ESPNNewYork.com, reports that Collins reiterated that EYJR is his favorite candidate for the leadoff role this season again on Thursday evening.

Rubin also notes that Sandy Alderson has stated that Lucas Duda will be used in an outfield capacity, and Collins used the word “platoon” when describing it. Collins also stated that he wants to get Ike Davis about twice as many at-bats this spring in order to avoid a slow start in 2014.

What the heck is going on here?

About three weeks ago, the Mets were trying to get Davis on the first train out of town, Duda was slated to be our starting first baseman, and Lagares was believed to be on his way to winning a Gold Glove Award in 2014. Fast forward to today, and now Davis looks to be the starting first baseman, Duda is going to platoon in the outfield, and Lagares may start the season in Las Vegas. Oh, and I almost forgot that Wilmer Flores will be getting a tryout of sorts at shortstop again this spring.

Am I surprised with any of this? Nope. Not at all. Nothing surprises me when it comes to the Mets anymore.

Here’s the deal. I stated it in a post earlier, and I will state it again in case you didn’t get a chance to read it. When I was being recruited to play college ball, one of the main questions I would ask was whether I would start right away. The response I often heard was “if you can hit, you will play.” In other words, the best offensive player with get the time—the coaches really never cared who the best defender was. That always resonated with me. This is how it is at any level of baseball.

I hate to break the news, but just because Lagares is a great defender doesn’t mean he has locked down the job. It doesn’t matter how many stats you point to that shows he saved X number of runs last year. The way the Mets are going to look at it now is how many runs will Lagares cost them by having him in the lineup? They aren’t forced to play him anymore because there isn’t a better offensive option.

Lagares got called up because he was performing outstanding offensively in Las Vegas in 2013—if the Mets had anyone else to play in center last season while Lagares was struggling offensively, he would have been sent back down. They didn’t call him up for his defense.

Lagares is an outstanding defender—there is no doubt about that. But he needs more offensive development. If you are going to make a serious run at the playoffs, you are not going to want a player that is an offensive project in the lineup.

juan lagaresDo I think EYJR is an upgrade offensively over Lagares? No. In fact, they were both pretty awful in 2013. Lagares had a wRC+ of 75 and Young was a 78. But the Mets need a leadoff hitter and they think Young Jr. is the man for the job. His slightly higher OBP and his ability to steal bases seem to be giving him an offensive advantage in Collins’ eyes.

The best offensive players will be on the field, period. The Mets would feel very comfortable with Chris Young in center (he’s no slouch defensively), and Eric Young Jr in left. In fact, it’s looking more and more like this is exactly what Collins wants.

The Mets just dished out over $20 million for Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, so you know those guys will be in the lineup. I’m sure the Mets are expecting 45-50 home runs combined between the two of them. That last outfield spot is coming down to EYJ, Lagares and now Duda is back in the mix. It actually sounds like Duda may get more playing time than Lagares, which just goes to show what coaches and executives think about offense and defense. Offense will always prevail.

The Mets love Duda’s offensive approach. Collins loves EYJR as the leadoff hitter. Lagares plays awesome defense. Who do you think will be the odd man out?

Check out this potential lineup for opening day in the Grapefruit League…

1. Eric Young Jr, LF

2. Daniel Murphy, 2B

3. David Wright, 3B

4. Curtis Granderson, RF

5. Chris Young, CF

6. Ike Davis, 1B

7. Wilmer Flores, SS

8. Travis d’Arnaud, C

I don’t think anyone had that in mind a couple of weeks ago.

Thoughts from David C.

By just looking at the lineup and not seeing Lagares’ name kind of bothers me, but it also reminds me that you never really know what TC is going to do with the players that are given to him.  I hope he realizes very quickly that his best defensive squad starts with Lagares in center field, then he can figure out from there, where to plug the other outfielders ,who outside of Granderson actually gets the nod.  I think Lagares can really make it very easy for himself by just coming out the box really hot and forcing TC to have to start him for the regular season Opening Day.  Lagares has earned the right to be a starter, but I guess he will have to prove himself to TC once again.  Anything can happen between now and the start of the real season, so we just sit back and wait and see and just hope for the best.  But I agree with Mitch, the Mets have an outstanding defensive fielder in Lagares, and even though his offensive side is a question, hopefully a fast start will quell all the skeptics and he will be a huge impact in the lineup.

MMN-Banner-for-MMO-300

  • norman tobias

    Good article. FYI the link for Chris Young is wrong!
    It’s Christopher Brandon Young (OF) NOT Christopher Ryan Young (P)
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/y/youngch04.shtml

  • Booboo

    Competition is a good thing. Making Lagares, Young, and Young compete seems to be a good idea to me. Lagares is great defensively but CYoung is supposed to be well above average and EYoung was at least average in left last year. If CYoung can hit 15 homers and steal 15 bases and if EY can steal 50 bases they certainly might be better than Lagares who has not proven he can hit yet.

  • Jim Alderson

    My guess is they use Granderson full time and the other 3 in a rotation, and when you factor in injuries and DHing in interleague games, they will each get 400 AB with Grandy getting over 500-600. I know CY said they promised him 600 AB, but that’s just unrealistic.

  • TexasGusCC

    I wouldn’t mind the lineup if Flores was #2, and everyone moved down a spot. A rotation, as mentioned earlier wouldn’t be a bad thing, it would give them all about 400 at bats. Duda in the outfield is definitely a bad thing.

  • Chance2

    Well, it will be interesting to see if all the alarmist blog writers end up being correct, or if the team is merely keeping its options open leading into spring training.

    DUDA. No one likes to hear “Duda” and “outfield” in the same sentence, but I wonder if you are sure someone said Duda “will” be in the outfield, unless they were referring to spring training?

    EY AS LEAD-OFF.  You say, “For whatever reason” TC would like EY to be the lead-off hitter.  The reason is clearly stated in the 1/30 SNY interview:  “I cannot – it’s very hard for me to forget what happened when Eric Young got on base last year: we won baseball games.  And he created a lot of excitement with his ability to steal bases and run the bases.  And our job at Spring Training is to work with him every day, to make him a better bunter, to get him so that he gets on base a little more.  Because if he does that, he’s the guy.”

     LAGARES.  No, Lagares has not locked down the center field job, presumably only because Chris Young was promised a chance to compete for it. CYoung is no great shakes on offense either….

  • TexasGusCC

    But, Chris Young being promised is creating the speculation. Granderson will play, CY was told he will play, so one spot left. For who? Duda, EY, or Lagares? That’s the problem. No one sees CY as deserving. If he wins it, like Byrd did, everyone is overjoyed.

  • GT

    Opening day lineups show where the coaches’ heads are at in March but I think Mets fans have to trust that talent will rise up the ranks before the end of Summer. Chris Young getting 400 ABs is unlikely – if anything he’s on the short side of a L/R platoon with Duda. Davis and Duda both staying Mets past the trade deadline is also unlikely. Tejada logging more than 75 games at short is unlikely. Throw in Granderson’s potential for a DL stint and there will be at bats to go around. Wouldn’t be surprised to see the following which would at least provide a platform to build from in 2015 –

    Lagares – 100 games/350 ABs
    Flores – 150 games/475 ABs
    Satin – 75 games/225 ABs

  • Todd Entel

    Sometimes it is hard to be a Mets fan! Sandy jumped too early at signing Chris Young. He saw Byrd go off the board and for a lot of money and thought he had to make a move before the market went crazy. But the market never went crazy, Cruz is still out there and so are other options better then CY and at this point could be had cheaper. I think he hoped to find a lead off hitter at SS and that never happened and now we are stuck trying to put together a lineup with an incomplete team and players who don’t really fit our needs. But to compound a mistake by not playing a young rising star like Lagares is silly. Playing Duda anywhere is silly, he should have been non- tendered but Sandy though he could trade a first basemen and that never happened either.

    My lineup with what we have:

    1. Lagares CF (I think he can put up similar offense to EY with more power)
    2. Murphy 2B
    3. Wright 3b
    4. Granderson LF
    5. dArnaud C
    6. Davis 1b
    7. C.Young / DenDekker platoon RF
    8. Tejada SS or anyone else who can play the position

    Bench
    EY
    Satin
    Back up catcher
    Back up short stop
    Brown or Duda

  • Todd Entel

    If they went with a platoon that included DenDekker there would be no spot for Duda/ Brown but since that won’t happen I included them.