Prospect Pulse: Juan Lagares Is Back On The Map
This player, a 22 year old RH hitting outfielder, once thought of with unlimited potential by the Mets, a player who they thought would be the next Jose Reyes, eventually was forgotten by the team that signed him as a 17 year old SS out of the Dominican Republic, as an IFA in May of 2006.
After spending the last six seasons in the Mets farm system, and going from top prospect to a nobody, Juan Lagares has pulled himself up out of obscurity, to once again claim the title, “Mets Minor League Prospect”.
After signing, Lagares toiled in the lowest levels of the minors for the Mets from 2006 through 2008, failing to distinguish himself as he hopped from the DSL to the GCL, Savannah, Brooklyn, then back to Savannah, all the while he never batted above .255.
Then the 2009 season brought him two things, a position switch from SS to the OF, and a badly fractured ankle that wiped out half the season for him. On to 2010, where he split time between Savannah A-, and St Lucie, A+. In 100 games in LF, and 423 combined AB’s, he hit .279 with 7 HR’s, 55 RBI’s and 25 SB’s.
Something has clicked this year for Mr. Lagares. He opened the 2011 season as the LF in St Lucie, playing everyday, and batting 5th or 6th, eventually moving up to bat 3rd. He quickly became the most important hitter on the team, making the offense go, as the St Lucie Mets charged out to the best record in the league. By the time he was promoted to AA Binghamton about three weeks ago, he had molested Florida State League pitching to the tune of a .339 BA in 307 AB’s. 7 HR’s, 49 RBI’s, 51 Runs, 104 HIts, 15 2B, 6 3B, 5 SB’s and a 47/21 K/BB ratio. When he moved up to Bingo, 19 games ago, he actually started to hit at another level. He is now hitting .407/.424/.556 in 19 games in AA. In 81 AB’s, 33 hits, 10 Runs, 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR’s, 11 RBI’s, and 5 more SB’s.
Before this season Lagares had a lifetime OBP of around .300, it is up to .389 for the year. Through 2010, his lifetime SLG was a little below .400, this season it is .508. And his lifetime OPS, which was around .700, is up this year to .897. With 21 games to go in the season, he has already surpassed his career bests in: Runs, Hits, 2B’s, HR’s, RBI’s, Walks, and BA.
“It’s been a short time since he’s been here, but he looks good,” B-Mets manager Wally Backman said. “He’s a very quiet hitter. He’s got a nice swing. He’s a good outfielder (with) a better than average arm. He runs well. He’s a pretty good-looking player, I think.”
Considering where Lagares has been during his trek through the Mets minor leagues, those are some pretty favorable comments from his new manager at AA.
“I didn’t have a good start in the beginning,” Lagares said of this season. “The first month I hit .250, .260. After that, I feel better and I feel more comfortable at home plate. Stay to the middle of the field with the approach and not try to (pull the ball), and react to the inside pitches,” Lagares said, “And that’s working.”
I would say the young man is right, it is apparently “working” pretty darn good. And there is definitely something to be said about being 22 years old, and being a AA Met, and hitting .407.
Welcome back, Juan Lagares!
About the Author: Peter Shapiro
The first time I went to Shea was not for a Mets game, it was for the Beatles concert there in August of '66. My first Met game was '67, a guy named Salty Parker was the interim-manager then. My first pennant race was 1969. As a 12 year-old that summer and fall, I managed to get to the park for 3 games. The first was the beginning of the Miracle which actually started on Tuesday July 8, 1969 with a day game against the Cubs. I was there a lot in '73. I saw games 3 & 5 of the 1973 NL Playoffs against the "Big Red Machine", from the upper deck behind home plate. It was from there that I witnessed the fight between Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose, and the mayhem that ensued. And that sweet victory in game 5! I saw a couple of WS games at Shea that year against that legendary Oakland A's club. I was there in 1985 for every single game Dr. K pitched including his two 16 strikeout performances, and the day he one-hit the Cubs on an infield single and the Mets won 1-0. I loved being a Met fan in those days. Hopefully we are once again preparing to emerge from the darkness.
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