Mets Season Preview: Who’s the most integral Met?

By Danny Abriano
4 of 11

Aug 2, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets center fielder

Juan Lagares

(12) catches a ball hit by San Francisco Giants first baseman

Brandon Belt

(9) in the second inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Rich Sparago, Staff Writer:

I think Juan Lagares will be critical to the Mets’ success in 2015. Coming off of his gold-glove season in 2014, there is little doubt that Lagares will once again provide stellar defense in center field. His defense will be even more important in 2015 with the limited range of left fielder Michael Cuddyer and right fielder Curtis Granderson. Lagares has a career UZR/150 of 29.9, and last year saved 28 runs on defense. The Mets will be counting on him to produce similar defensive metrics in 2015.

On offense, much will be expected of Lagares. Though Terry Collins has not officially set a lineup, Lagares will likely bat leadoff. This will be a challenge for Lagares, who will be asked to get on base a rate better than his career OBP of .302. Additionally, the Mets lack team speed, and will be looking to Lagares to demonstrate improved competence on the base paths. There is some reason to believe that he will. Lagares stole 13 bases in 17 attempts in 2014, most of which came in September, when Terry Collins asked Lagares to run more often.

This year will be an offensive cross roads for Lagares. His OBP went from .281 in 2013 to .321to 2014. It will be important to the Mets that this progression continues, especially with him in the leadoff role. The Mets don’t have another option to bat first. If Lagares does not get on base enough, Curtis Granderson or Daniel Murphy may be used in the first spot. This would be a sub-optimal situation, and require other lineup changes that would impact the power distribution in the lineup and the left/right balance.

In 2015, quite a bit is expected of Juan Lagares on both defense and offense. While the defensive expectations play to Lagares’ strengths, the offensive challenges of plate discipline, improved OBP, and base running will represent his most significant challenges thus far in his career. His ability to respond to these challenges will have a strong impact on the Mets fortunes this season.

Next: Shawn Jindal's pick for most integral Met