Heading into the 2014 season, the New York Mets have a lot of uncertainties, but the team’s outfield defense isn’t one of them. Even though the everyday outfield alignment has yet to be finalized, the Mets are primed to have what could be the best outfield defense in baseball.
The biggest reason to believe that the Mets will have the best outfield defense in baseball is Juan Lagares. Even if he doesn’t play every day, Lagares should get a lot of playing time, meaning the Mets will have one of the best young defensive players in the game patrolling center field for them. Lagares makes difficult plays look routine, and his arm can keep opposing runners from taking an extra base on the balls that fall in for hits.
For as much ground as Lagares can cover, he’ll be flanked by quality defensive outfielders no matter who’s in the lineup. Eric Young Jr. was a surprising Gold Glove finalist last year, and while he’s not an elite defensive player, he has the speed to cover a lot of ground in the outfield. Young Jr. will play mostly in left field, while Curtis Granderson will be the team’s everyday right fielder. Granderson may not be the defensive player he was in his younger days, but he still has enough range to be an average or better corner outfielder.
One outfielder who should be in the lineup every day, at least at the start of the season, is Chris Young. Coming off the worst season of his career hitting-wise, the offensive production that the Mets will get from Young is still uncertain. However, he’s still a top-flight defensive player who should help them on that side of the ball.
On days when Lagares doesn’t play, Young is a more-than-suitable replacement. The rest of the time, having Young and Lagares in the same outfield will give the Mets’ pitching staff an advantage that few teams will have.
Even the Mets’ top outfield prospects who may be in the big leagues later in the season are quality defensive players. Matt den Dekker, who had a great spring swinging the bat, is a defensive highlight reel waiting to happen who may be every bit the defensive player that Lagares is. Cesar Puello is one of the best athletes in the Mets’ farm system, and has great arm strength that could allow him to step into a corner outfield spot at any point this year without the Mets missing a beat defensively.
The Mets have more than half a dozen outfielders on its 40-man roster who are quality defensive outfielders, including a pair in Lagares and Young who are among the best in the big leagues. The outfield of Lagares, Young and Granderson would be the best defensive outfield in baseball, but no matter which three players put out there, they’ll have an elite defensive outfield in 2014, which will help the pitching staff immensely.