It looks like Sandy Alderson may have inadvertently hinted that Juan Lagares will get a chance to be the everyday center fielder to begin the season when talking to reporters on Tuesday.
“I think everybody would probably agree he’s our best outfielder, he’s our best center fielder,” Alderson said about Lagares.
“But he’s going to have to hit a little bit, too. So if he were to start in center field on Opening Day, we’d have to see over a period of time — how long, how short I don’t know — that he can carry the offensive side of the game as well. And if that’s not the case, then typically a guy like that would be better off playing every day somewhere else. But that’s premature.”
I would assume that by “somewhere else” Sandy was alluding to Triple-A Las Vegas, but he certainly sounded as if Lagares would get every opportunity to prove himself as the starting center fielder to start the season.
However, I’m not so sure Terry Collins feels the same way. When asked yesterday if Lagares had done enough to be the starting center fielder, Collins replied, “Tough to answer that right now. We know how good he is defensively.”
His desire all offseason and Spring has always been to bat Eric Young Jr. leadoff, which would essentially move Chris Young to center and Lagares to the bench. To Collins, Young is the best leadoff candidate on the team, which doesn’t necessarily mean he’s any good at it.
However, I would argue that after watching Chris Young have a stellar spring, he may actually be the best candidate to bat leadoff for the Mets – a role he’s succeeded at before in his career.
Here is how all three are performing in Grapefruit League play:
- Chris Young has a .347/.407/.551 slash in 49 at-bats.
- Eric Young has a .256/.347/.349 slash in 43 at-bats.
- Juan Lagares has a .265/.333/.306 slash in 49 at-bats.
Sure these are all small sample sizes, but even if you were to simply go with the hot hand, wouldn’t you still start the season with Chris Young as your leadoff hitter on Opening Day?
There’s no telling how short of a leash Collins will give Lagares, but I’m wondering what would he have to do offensively to keep the starting job? What’s the tipping point?
Would batting .260 with a .335 on-base do the trick?
It’s difficult to come up with any base level of performance without also considering Lagares’ unparalleled defensive contributions.
In other words, if Juan Lagares compiled 26 defensive runs saved compared to 3 DRS for Eric Young, shouldn’t Young have to produce much more offensively than Lagares to achieve an equivalent overall value?
So if a .335 on base would be an acceptable minimum for Lagares, wouldn’t we want a minimum of a .380 on-base from Young to even equal Lagares’ overall value to the team?
Please note that I just pulled those numbers out of thin air, and just wanted to illustrate a point. But you see where I’m going with this, right?
Also, I don’t want to come across as someone who doesn’t appreciate what Eric Young brings to the team. I thought he brought a much needed energy to the lineup during his first month with the team, and I love the speed element that he gives us.
I’m only suggesting that his best value to the team is as a fourth outfielder who will get plenty of playing time if we use him wisely. Having his speed as a weapon off the bench gives us an option that will come in handy late in a game. Additionally, he can get some time at second base as well if Daniel Murphy is facing a particularly tough lefthander.
But getting back to my initial point, shouldn’t Lagares and Eric Young both be held to different offensive standards for determining who should start and who shouldn’t?
Clearly, Lagares must improve on his .242/.281/.352 batting line from last season. My question is by how much?