Even though Juan Lagares is having an eye-opening season defensively in center field (he has 13 assists) and has shown flashes offensively, there has been chatter ever since Matt den Dekker was called up that he and Lagares might be platoon partners next year at Citi Field.
With that in mind, the Mets have at times been playing den Dekker in center field with Lagares in right field in order to get a handle on just how good den Dekker is in center.
Both Lagares and den Dekker are raw offensively. However, Lagares is 23 and den Dekker is 26. The thing that separates Lagares and den Dekker more than their age, though, is their respective strikeout percentages.
In 2011, 2012, and 2013, while playing in AA and AAA, Lagares’ strikeout percentage was 17.1 %, 17 %, and 17 % respectively. This year with the Mets, Lagares has struck out 22.5 % of the time.
In 2011, 2012, and 2013, while playing in AA and AAA, den Dekker’s strikeout percentage was 29 %, 28.4 %, and 22.8 % respectively. This year with the Mets, den Dekker has struck out an alarming 36.5 % of the time.
Lagares’ overall offensive numbers aren’t pretty, but he’s nearly three years younger than den Dekker and has a significantly better contact rate. He’s shown flashes, but still needs to refine his game. Still, the value he’s provided defensively makes up for his offensive shortcomings.
It’s more than the ground Lagares covers, too. He gets tremendous jumps on the ball, charges hits with the natural instincts of an infielder, and has a strong and accurate throwing arm.
At this point, at 26 years old, den Dekker may be exactly what he appears to be: a very good defensive center fielder who won’t be able to put the ball in play enough to justify being on a big league club.
The problem with a Lagares/den Dekker platoon is two fold. First, den Dekker has done nothing to warrant being a part of a platoon next year. Second, even if he suddenly stops striking out in bunches in his age 27 season, there’s no reason for the bulk of the playing time in center field to go to den Dekker over Lagares. And that’s exactly what would happen due to Lagares being a righty and den Dekker hitting from the left side of the plate.
Juan Lagares has earned the chance to be the Mets’ full time center fielder in 2014. Putting him in a platoon with Matt den Dekker would likely be detrimental to his development and to the potential of the club.