Sep 4, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York Mets center fielder Matt den Dekker (6) celebrate with center fielder Juan Lagares (12) and left fielder Eric Young Jr. (22) after the game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. The Mets won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Thoughts on Center Field & 2014

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.


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Tags: Juan Lagares Matt Den Dekker New York Mets

  • Ryan Ritchey

    What’s the possibility of the Mets going out and getting an outfielder in free agency this winter??

    • Brian Reilly

      I 100% agree with your choices, sign Shoo and play him in RF. Sign Napoli and he’s our first baseman. I’m less certain on Granderson . His combined 2011-2012 BA is only .242 and while he he hit over 40 HR’s both years, I’d want to study video (which I don’t have), on how many of his homers at Yankee Stadium would be warning track fly outs at Citi Field. Ellsbury’s durability worries me. I still like Marlon Byrd for the right price as he proved he could hit 20-25 homers as a Met along with a .285 BA.

  • Brian Reilly

    The Mets must sign Cano to play shortstop (yes he is very capable of playing the position). Next, I would consider bringing back Marlon Byrd, assuming management feels confident of his abilities to approximately replicate this past year. He was a great teammate to the younger guys as many of them credited him with their improvement. Having Cano, Wright, Murphy and Byrd in the lineup would be a huge help to the younger players like Lagares, den Dekker, Eric Young and d”Arnaud and would go a long way toward lifting their offensive production. I think a platoon in CF makes sense, unless one of them really emerges in spring training. The final question is 1B. Do we utilize a Satin/Davis platoon or do we sign/trade for a veteran first basemen? Not a lot of 1B talent in the free agent market and quite frankly I would be very judicious about trading ANY of our young pitchers, given the higher risk of injury (elbow/shoulder) at the position. While I am indifferent with regards to Davis, we must get Satin playing time. He can flat out hit, like Murphy, and could easily be a .290-.300 hitter if given 300 ab’s.

    • Ryan Ritchey

      Regarding 1B, Mike Napoli could become a free agent if the Red Sox sign Cuban star Jose Abreu. He would be a good fit in that ball park as he has really nice power. Regarding the outfield Lagares is good defensively but offensively not so much as Danny stated in the article. There are a lot of good free agent outfielders on the market as well. (Granderson, Choo, Ellsbury) The Mets could compete next season, just have to make the right moves in the off season to make it happen.

    • Brian Reilly

      Agreed, I like Napoli and I like Choo. Regarding Lagares, would he be .245-.250 hitter in a lineup that featured Cano and Choo or Byrd? With a stronger lineup, some of the young hitters like Lagares and d’Arnaud could really benefit. And Lagares is a great fielder.

    • Ryan Ritchey

      It’s rumored that the Mets are willing to spend about $30 million this off season, so Choo would be out of the question if that is true. Choo will end up getting $100 million at some point this winter. Napoli could definitely fit in and be a great fit across the diamond from David Wright. Marlon Byrd could be a really valuable option, giving what he has done this season. It will be fun to watch what Alderson does this off season.

    • Brian Reilly

      It is very disappointing that a NY team utilizes a non-money center team payroll. If the extent of their additions are Byrd and Napoli, w/o even considering someone like Cano or Shoo.