The month of September figures to be a month of experimentation for the New York Mets. They already have Wilmer Flores playing shortstop every day and Matt den Dekker getting a chance to be an everyday player as well. One more experiment the Mets need to give a try during the final month of the season is putting Juan Lagares in the leadoff spot.
To be fair, Curtis Granderson has done a fine job in the leadoff spot, but he’s filled that spot more out of a need than anything else. Looking ahead toward next year, Granderson will be better suited to hit second in the Mets lineup, if not down in the order, most likely sixth behind Travis d’Arnaud in a position where he can drive in runs. With Granderson unlikely to remain in the leadoff spot long term and the Mets out of contention, it makes sense to take him out of that spot and try other leadoff candidates between now and the end of the season; Lagares is the most logical option.
Lagares spent some time leading off early in the season before the two stints on the DL derailed his season, and the results were quite good. He showed off a more patient approach than he did last year, and that helped him to improve his on-base percentage. Since returning from his latest injury, Lagares has not been as patient at the plate, but a return to the leadoff spot could force him to improve his patience and become a viable leadoff hitter. After all, Lagares does have the speed to steal a few bases and score from first base on a double, and outside of the perpetually disappointing Eric Young Jr. he may be the best option the Mets have as a leadoff hitter other than Granderson.
Assuming the Mets wisely cut ties with Young Jr. before next year, Lagares may be the team’s best option to hit leadoff heading into 2015, at least among players on the current roster. It would behoove the Mets to give Lagares a chance to be their leadoff hitter in September.
If he struggles in the role and would be better off hitting down in the order, then at least the Mets will know for sure that they’ll have to address the leadoff spot during the offseason. If Lagares excels atop the batting order, then they can feel good about putting him there in 2015. But the Mets won’t know any of that unless they try out Lagares in the leadoff spot during the final month of the season.