For a majority of you who visit this site, you watch too much baseball. How else would you describe watching the Mets day-after-day? The more you watch, the more you become desensitized. Most plays start to seem ordinary. That tends to happen to me.
I got a chance to watch yesterday’s 4-3 win against the Phillies with a friend of mine. She hardly watches baseball. She couldn’t tell you the difference between the leadoff and cleanup hitter, but she did make some interesting comments.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Carlos Ruiz smoked a ball to deep center. Naturally, Juan Lagares broke back and flagged the ball down for the third out—bailing Jeremy Hefner out of a bases-loaded jam. It was a play he made look easy enough for me to not give a second thought. When it happened, my friend said, “Wow. That guy’s fast.” It was a simple statement. Most athletes are fast. The more I thought about it, the more intuitive I thought it was.
Lagares is a pretty good center fielder. Being fast doesn’t always translate to being a good outfielder. He takes good routes to balls as well. As I thought about my friend’s statement after the play, I thought about how hard Ruiz hit the ball. Ruiz got himself into a hitter’s count and knew he might get something to drive. That’s exactly what happened. They say the hardest ball to judge is the line drive right to you. Right off the bat, Lagares broke back, caught the ball and kept the score tied 3-3. It was a pivotal moment in the game. Lagares has continued to make those kinds of plays in center field.
The problem has been Lagares at the plate. He hasn’t shown a lot of patience, but that’s beginning to change. That’s what enough playing time will do for a player. It’s the argument I kept making for Jordany Valdespin. If you get enough reps instead of getting one at bat every three nights, you’re going to improve no matter who you are.
Lagares is batting just .234 this season with 24 strike outs, two walks and a .250 OBP, but in the month of June, he’s improved. This month he’s batting .319—148 more points than the previous month. His strike outs are still high, but that comes with being a rookie. More importantly, he’s getting hits when they matter. His double in the top of the sixth drove in the deciding run and was his second double of the game (props to Lucas Duda for chugging around those bases).
Lagares has been able to translate his speed to offense and stretch singles into doubles. He shows the kind of spirit Mets coaches have failed to inspire in the team this season.
My friend might not know much about baseball, but talent is recognized universally. Lagares could be the Mets’ future center fielder. He could also be the latest bust in an otherwise throwaway season. Either way, I’ll be watching him a little more closely in games to come. You should too.
What do you think about Juan Lagares so far?