The New York Mets are hoping for a healthier year from Juan Lagares in 2019. Let’s examine the best and worst possible outcomes for the coming year.
Soon after his call-up, he quickly took over as the Mets’ everyday center fielder and became known for his defensive prowess, regularly making spectacular catches, and led the majors with 12 defensive runs saved for the 2013 season, as well as ranking second in outfield assists.
He continued on as starting center fielder for the Mets into the 2014 season and along with his premier defensive, noticeably improved his offensive output, raising his average from .242 in 2013 to .281 for the 2014 season. He also won his first Gold Glove Award at the conclusion of the season.
Lagares began the 2015 season as the starting center fielder once again for the Mets, but after the call-up of top prospect Michael Conforto and acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers later in July of that year, he was relegated to the bench as the Mets fourth outfielder, being used often as a pinch hitter or defensive replacement late in games, as well as the occasional start against left-handed hitters.
From the 2016 season to the present, the job as a fourth outfielder and right-handed bat off of the bench has remained Lagares’ role on the team due to being consistently blocked by outfielders with better offensive metrics.
Additionally, he has been unable to capitalize on getting playing time when while his other teammates have been either injured or traded due to several injuries of his own. Lagares has failed to appear in over 100 games in each of the past few seasons. In fact, he was limited to just 30 last season and was ruled out for the season in May of last year due to a torn plantar plate in his toe.
Now that he has fully recovered from his injury and played a few tune-up games in the Dominican Winter League, Lagares is slated to begin the 2019season as the Mets Opening Day center fielder for the first time since 2015.
Barring any blockbuster signings or trades by GM Brodie Van Wagenen, Lagares appears to be the Mets best option to replace the injured Yoenis Cespedes in the outfield, as he is still recovering from ankle surgery and is expected to remain out until at least July.
The only outfield signings the Mets made this offseason were signing both Rajai Davis and Gregor Blanco to minor league deals with invitations to spring training, as well as completing a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers for Keon Broxton, who plays solid defense in center field, but struggled at the plate last year.
Due to their lack of significant moves to this point, the job as the Mets Opening Day center fielder clearly appears to be Lagares’ to lose. Here are his best and worst case scenarios for 2019.