The New York Mets have started to figure out a few things about their future in 2013. We’ve all seen the starting rotation of the future begin to take shape with Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, and it’s also possible that the Mets have found their center fielder for the long haul in Juan Lagares.
I’m willing to admit that I was wrong when I campaigned for Lagares to be sent back to the minors more than a month ago. He has developed quickly, had a great month of July, and is now the Mets’ every day center fielder. All season long, the Mets have given opportunities to outfielders with the hope that some of them would earn a spot as an every-day player, and Lagares has done that.
Since being called up by the Mets and making his MLB debut, Lagares has proven that he is a great defensive player, flashing the skills that give him the potential to be one of the elite defensive outfielders in baseball one day. Despite playing shortstop at the beginning of his minor league career, Lagares looks like a natural center fielder, so much so that Mets insiders have hesitantly compared him to former Atlanta Braves great Andruw Jones.
However, it’s with the bat that Lagares has made the most progress over the past month. Early in his time in the big leagues, Lagares looked overmatched and had a propensity for swinging at bad pitches. But while Lagares still isn’t great at drawing walks, he has worked hard and been receptive to Mets’ hitting coach Dave Hudgens, and as a result, he has improved as a hitter in a short period of time. After hitting .171 in the month of May, Lagares hit .271 in June and hit .353 in July.
Not only has Lagares improved his batting average significantly over the past two months, but he has also shown doubles power, which could turn into home run power in the future, and he has shown good speed and athleticism on the base paths. With his improved hitting, great athleticism, power potential and incredible defense, Lagares is everything the Mets are looking for in a center fielder.
Heading into the season, players like Collin Cowgill, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jordany Valdespin and Matt den Dekker seemed much more likely to lay claim to the Mets’ center field job than Lagares, who was barely among the top-20 prospects in their farm system heading into 2013. However, Lagares has been impressive over the last two months, and while he still has a lot to prove, he should be the Mets’ every day center fielder the rest of the season, and he has a real chance to retain that job for a long time to come.