By: Matthew Cavanagh

The Case for Juan Lagares


Now that Yoenis Cespedes has stated that he prefers to play left field exclusively, the Mets are presented with something of a logjam in their outfield. The dilemma that the Mets think they have is whether or not to play Michael Conforto or Curtis Granderson in center field. The question they should be asking themselves is which of these two should be on the bench while the other plays right field.

As was the case in 2015, Juan Lagares has become the forgotten man. No one can question the level of defense that Lagares brings to the table. It seems like every time he starts, if he’s not making a highlight-reel diving catch, he’s cutting off a bloop single and turning it into an out. For a team built around starting pitching, it is mind boggling that Mets are so reluctant to utilize a defensive talent who routinely takes away hits and cuts down baserunners, resulting in quicker innings, reduced pitch counts, and a psychological edge. When you routinely play 2-1 games, and runs are at a premium, it would seem only logical to put the best defense out there.

That said, Lagares is a far better offensive player than he is given credit for. Terry Collins has claimed to run a meritocracy, where those who perform will see playing time. Since Curtis Granderson joined the Mets (2.5 seasons) he has hit .241 with 165 RBI, 22 steals, 8 triples,374 strikeouts, and a WAR of 6.4. In that same span, Juan Lagares has hit .268 with 96 RBI, 22 steals, 10 triples, 195 strikeouts, and a WAR of 6.9. Granderson has nearly 500 more AB in that span. Two categories where Granderson is notably better are hitting HR and drawing walks. Granderson has hit 62 HR and drawn 211 walks, while Lagares has hit 13 HR and walked only 44 times. The two are very different types of hitters. While Granderson is from the new school “3 true outcomes” approach (walks, strikeouts, home runs),

Lagares has more of an old-school approach. He puts the ball in play, makes much better contact, and makes things happen on the basepaths. In a Mets lineup where virtually every hitter strikes out too much and clogs the bases, Lagares is one of the few who can play small ball. Lagares has more doubles than Neil Walker despite having 183 fewer ABs. While Met hitters are constantly falling victim to defensive shifts, Lagares is inside-outing opposite field triples. The addition of José Reyes notwithstanding, Lagares brings an energy that their ho-hum offense is screaming for.

If Terry Collins is truly running a meritocracy, he should take Curtis Granderson (2-for-31 with RISP & 2 outs) and platoon him in RF with the recently recalled from AAA Michael Conforto. There will be enough opportunities to get ABs for both, with Cespedes requiring days off for rest. Juan Lagares is simply too great a strength defensively and too big a spark plug offensively to be wasting away on the Mets bench.

About Matthew Cavanagh

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