Should Juan Lagares Be The Opening Day Center Fielder for the Mets in 2014?

By Joe D.

August 8, 2013 7 Comments

future stars lagares

Considering how many years I have been extolling the virtues of Juan Lagares, I found it almost embarrassing this morning when I discovered that I never designed a custom graphic for him in all this time. Can you ever forgive me Don Juan?

This talented prospect whose combination of power, speed and defense has seduced me since I first laid eyes on him at Binghamton, had all five of his tools on full display as he single-handedly defeated the Colorado Rockies 3-2. In addition to another spectacular defensive grab to deny the Rockies, Don Juan drove in all three of the Met runs including the go ahead RBI in the bottom of the eight inning as he turned on his afterburners to reach first base as Eric Young scored what would be the winning run. Wow!

I still recall more than half the Met fans on Twitter wanting him sent down because he was batting .170 after a month on the team and 50 or so sporadic at-bats courtesy of his clueless manager. “Sending Lagares down before getting a months shot at everyday job would be criminal”, I said. “He’s the best centerfielder on the team and in the entire organization, and he can hit.”

You all know I’ve been calling Lagares the center fielder of the future since the Winter, but I thought it was time to ask a few of our writers at what they thought of when I posed these questions to them.

I have a question for all of you…

Should Juan Lagares be our 2014 Opening Day everyday centerfielder? Assume the season ended today and all you have to go by is what he’s done so far. 

Matt Musico – If the season ended today, I think Lagares deserves to be on the Opening Day roster, but not in the everyday lineup. I can see him as being a very valuable fourth outfielder if he embraces the role. Now, I only say this because if the season ended today, Eric Young, Jr. would be in my starting outfield. If New York decides EY is not part of the answer, then Lagares should be in the lineup every day to provide defense and some element of speed. I’m not saying EY is just as good as Lagares is defensively (he’s not, by far), but there needs to be some form of speed out there. If it’s not Young, I’d rather get younger with Juan instead of overpay for someone like Choo or Ellsbury.

Prince Rahman – I would not give Lagares the job next season. In fact, I would try to use him in a trade package along with Montero, Mazzoni, and others to get CarGo. Why? This is because I simply don’t think Lagares will hit for enough power and display enough speed for my taste. I think he compares favorably to Gerardo Parra: Elite defense and good hitting bat. There is nothing wrong with Parra. In fact: Parra is GREAT player. However, I just don’t think Lagares’ tools play well at Citi Field. He has pop but not enough to hit more than 10 homers annually. He has speed but does not use it on the base paths. I feel that Curtis Granderson would fit in very well with the Mets. He has speed and is left handed. People say he doesn’t have “true” power. This simply isn’t true as he hit 30 HRs in a pitchers park like Comerica. You can use Lagares to sweeten the pot for CarGo, sign Granderson to play CF, and sign Corey Hart to play RF (on the cheap). Your outfield would be CarGo/Grandy/Hart. But hey: what do I know? I’m not the GM! :)

Teddy Klein – Lagares should be starting CF until he proves he can’t. He’s a righty version of Card’s Jon Jay, but better. When he was signed, they thought he would be better than Jose Reyes, but Reyes developed too well to be denied.

David Conde – Okay the question that I must think about is, is there anyone else that can play CF for the Mets and make an impact, if the season ended today, and the answer I say is no. Can he really be as consistent as we would hope, honestly I am still not sure. But his defense and the way he covers ground in center field and his arm, is one that unless we can land a power center fielder like an Elsbury, I don’t see anyone else that can play the position within our farm system and be an impact player. So if the season ended today, in my mind he would be the Starting CF for 2014. He is young and he can still get better with the bat, and you can see his confidence from playing everyday, so barring any big moves this winter, he is my man for the job.

Kirk Cahill – If the Mets can add some offense at the corner outfield spots I don’t see any reason why Lagares can’t be our centerfielder next season. He’s never going to be a high on-base guy, but his at bats have been improving. I think he’ll develop some power. So when you factor in his defense, he’s capable of being a solid player. I’m a big proponent of defense up the middle.

Okay, so there doesn’t seem to be as much enthusiasm for The Don as I had hoped. Looks like me and Lagares still have a lot of people we need to convince. How about we take a look at his splits this season and notice the trend as his playing time increased:

  • April – 14 PA, .083/.214/.083/.298
  • May – 36 PA, .171/.171/.314/.468
  • June – 72 PA, .271/.282/.386/.667
  • July – 77 PA, .353/.408/.529/.937

Luck? Or a player on a learning curve and making adjustments as Terry Collins alluded to at the beginning of this current homestand? I say it’s the latter…

In the last six weeks he has raised his batting average over 100 points and his OPS by over 250 points. Over the last 28 games including last night, Lagares is batting .353 with a .400 on-base to which Gary Cohen sighed and said, “I wish he’d walk more.” Seriously? The guy provided the only offense in the entire game and he’s complaining? Tell you what Gary, let’s bring back Collin Cowgill who you couldn’t stop raving about for three weeks.

Anyway… I remember how Paul DePodesta raved about Lagares before the season started and he called him one of the players he expected to breakthrough in 2013. I’ll take it one step further and call this more than just a breakthrough. Lagares owns that center field job and I think Sandy Alderson is smart enough to realize that as well.