Although the New York Mets are headed to another losing season, and their fans are still reeling from the crushing news that pitching deity Matt Harvey has a partially torn UCL, there are reasons to be excited about the team. In fact, while players like Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, and Travis d’Arnaud are the typical names dropped as far as the Met’s future, another man has played his way into that mix.
Now rookie left fielder Juan Lagares may not be terrorizing pitchers and capturing headlines (for either the right or wrong reasons) like emerging superstar Yasiel Puig, but his defensive play has been pretty spectacular. Now in case you don’t tune into many Met’s games, especially since Harvey went to the DL, you may be unaware that Lagares earned Defensive Player of the Month honors in August. According to ESPN.com, Lagares and his glove led the big leagues last month in defensive runs saved with 12. By doing so, he outplayed previous winners this year like Manny Machado, Andrelton Simmons and Lorenzo Cain. That’s impressive fielding company.
In fact, if you look at Fangraphs’ wins above replacement (WAR) standings for positional player rookies, the only man in front of Lagares is Puig with a score of 4.0. The 24 year-old Lagares has a WAR of 3.0, in large part due to his fielding in runs score of 20.6. Puig currently sits at 3.1.
In the aforementioned ESPN story, Mets outfield coach Tom Goodwin was quoted saying about Lagares:
“His confidence is sky high as far as going to get balls,” said Goodwin. “You lose that instant excitement when you first get here, and the jitters, and he doesn’t have that anymore. He just goes out there and plays the game. That’s the biggest compliment I can give him. He’s really matured beyond his years.”
“You’ll see him get to some balls where they’re line drives and he’s getting to them on the first hop, instead of two or three hops later,” Goodwin added. “His routes are outstanding. His reads are outstanding. And when he comes in, he makes good, strong, accurate throws.”
That’s some high praise. The story also relayed that according to Baseball Info Solutions, Lagares recorded 22 ‘out of zone’ putouts in August, and had 67 of the difficult catches by the end of that month. Now that’s what you call range.
Now on the offensive side of things, as of September 14th and 341 at bats, Lagares is hitting .261, has 4 homers, 30 RBIs and an OBP of .297. While there’s no doubt that the Mets would like to see Lagares improve those numbers next year, if he does, and continues to dazzle in the field, there will be even more reasons to smile in NYC.