Sep 28, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets center fielder Juan Lagares (12) tracks down a line drive hit by Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Norichika Aoki (not pictured) during the seventh inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Outfield: What's Next?


Now that the Mets have signed Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, the outfield conversation has shifted to the potential configuration in 2014. Assuming there are no other deals that will affect the outfield (and this is a big assumption, as more moves are likely), the Mets could go with either of the following setups:

LF- Eric Young, Jr.

CF- Curtis Granderson or Chris Young

RF- Curtis Granderson of Chris Young

OR

LF- Curtis Granderson

CF- Juan Lagares

RF- Chris Young

There is a large contingent of the Mets’ faithful that believes Juan Lagares is a lock for center field on opening day. I must have been absent the day that he was anointed as a modern-day Willie Mays, because I simply don’t see it. Certainly Lagares showed defensive prowess in his time with the Mets last year, posting an incredible UZR of 24.4. However, as stellar as his defense was, his offense left a lot to be desired. Lagares hit .242 with an OBP of .281. Further, he swung at 47.3% of the pitches he saw, and he swung at 35.6% of the pitches he saw that were outside of the strike zone. Lagares walked only 20 times in 392 at bats, for a walk percentage of 4.8%. He struck out in 22.8% of his official at bats.

What does all of this mean? We’ve heard that Lagares is a hard worker, and at 25 (he’ll turn 25 on St. Patrick’s Day), he has plenty of time to improve offensively. And, with his eye-popping defense, Lagares deserves a shot to get better and earn a regular spot. However, for now, it may not make sense to have him in the starting lineup. He can’t bat lead off with his low OBP (and with Eric Young Jr. not in the lineup, the Mets will need a lead off hitter). The Mets tried Daniel Murphy (who could be dealt) in the lead off spot, but that didn’t work so well in 2013, which led to the acquisition of Young. Also, Lagares may benefit from more time at AAA to improve his offense. An outfield of Young, Granderson, and Young would be fine defensively (with plenty of speed), and would allow the Mets to use Eric Young Jr. in the lead off spot. Young also needs to improve upon his OBP, which was .310 last year. However, his stolen base prowess (he led the league with 46 last year) enables him to create runs when he gets on base. Lagares is still an unpolished base runner.

All of this is speculation, as it’s quite likely that more moves will be made. As referenced above, a trade of Daniel Murphy may force the Mets to use Eric Young Jr. at second base. That would drive the outfield configuration to be Granderson/Lagares/Chris Young. The point here is that it seems the fan base has embraced Lagares, and with some validity to do so. However, it may be a little early to be handing him the center field spot. He still has significant learning to do, and the Mets would have to find a spot in the batting order where he could be used effectively. With next week’s Winter Meetings, answers to many of the Mets’ questions could be coming soon. It will be interesting, that’s for sure.

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Tags: Curtis Granderson Eric Young Jr Juan Lagares

  • Joe.02

    Lagares has potential and provides something to root for* while showing very good defense. If he sent back (which seems a demotion after being up for 1/2 year), the team needs another OF. Chris Young and EY Young ideally would be fourth outfielders. The idea they will be your starters with Grand. is dubious.

    * The team is at best going to be maybe trying for a WC shot. Lagares was a fan favorite with some upside. Teams on the rise play some of these players, even if they are not quite ready. This is also a reason to keep Murphy, especially if the return is not very much. He is of a small group of “Mets players” and since this is not merely fantasy baseball, it’s good to keep them, esp. if they play well.

  • Bill

    I think that with the signing of Curtis Granderson, the priority of needs has now shifted from the outfield to shortstop and pitching. I like the outfield of Granderson in left, Lagares in center, and C. Young in right with E. Young being a super-sub fourth outfielder. As far as Lagares goes, I see a lot of potential to have a much better offensive year in 2014. I took a look at his monthly splits from 2013 – after a dreadful April and May, from June 1 through August 31, Lagares hit .288 with a .321 OBP. Unfortunately, September was a letdown, but that may be expected for a player playing his first full season in the bigs. He ended the year on an 1 for 22 note. The other thing that I noticed was that of his 20 walks (yes, a low number), 12 of them were in August and Septeber, a good sign that he showed improvement and a hopeful stat for the future. He has good speed and stole a few bags. I say let slot him into the leadoff role and let him ‘run’ with it, giving him a fair shake. In my opinion, the outfield has now dropped very low in priority. Shortstop is a mess, they really need some starting pitching depth and another reliever. I’d even call the backup catcher a higher priority than doing anything more with the outfield.

    • http://www.vitamincm.com VitaminCM

      I agree with just about everything you said. Lagares also play in the Dominican winter league and did very well. Maybe he makes a little offensive progress this year. That would be a nice complement to his All Start defense.

    • Dawn Krol

      I agree and lets not forget that at the start of the year, Terry and Sandy did just about everything they could to keep Lagares out of the lineup. Cowgill, Rick Ankeil, Neuenheis, etc. until Lagares forced them to use him. I know he was up to .272 BA before the September swoon, and as you said, it may have been a young player hitting a wall. I’d start with him for at least the first 2 months. If he can’t hit, there are alternatives.

  • Ken Meoni

    We will have to see how spring training goes. I don’t think Lagares is a definite for CF. Let’s see how it all plays out. I still would like to see Nieuwenhuis given a shot as I feel he has more power. Let’s not forget den Dekker if you like defense. The outfield is exciting.

    • Eric Bloom

      Captain Kirk has received his opportunity and hasn’t taken advantage. He started off strong two seasons ago, but has declined since. Den Dekker is next in line if Juan falters, but it’s Juan’s job to lose.

  • stealthird17

    Den Dekker has plenty of power if given the chance also.

  • Rich S

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. I’m still not sold on Lagares. Think about Rey Ordonez. The talk was that we have to let this free-swinging kid have a chance because of his defense. That tolerance lasted about a month, when everyone was calling for his head due to his struggles at the plate. Maybe Lagares will be different. But I think the adoration is premature.

    • Not4Nutten

      Rich, prior to Ordonez getting hurt tagging out a Dodger runner, he won 3 Gold Gloves, the fans got on him because he no longer had a cannon of an arm and he was pared with an aging HOF Roberto Alomar who’s skills also were on the dark side of the moon! If Lagaras can win 3 Gold Gloves, The Mets will be in the world series, he’s the best Young defensive Centerfielder out there, Sandy has got to keep his mouth shut, that’s how they lost Tejada and Davis, he burnt them out mentally!

  • Not4Nutten

    Lagares, without question is the best young Centerfielder in Baseball, it’s obvious that the Mets will not be knocking the ball out of the park, therefor they should build a defensive team to support their young pitching. There’s no reason why, with their pitching they can’t win low scoring games. Pitching, defense and move the runners around the bases by taking the same young players and have them cut down on their swings to make contact. In Three years since Alderson and Collins have taken over, they have developed no every day player, in fact they have gone out of their way to destroy what was given to them and add Harvey to that list!

  • Eric Bloom

    im pretty sure lagares` .242 was higher than all three other options last year
    just sayin…