Juan Lagares has been spectacular this year in the outfield, plain and simple. I would just like to take this moment to acknowledge that our center fielder currently ranks 14th in the majors and 7th in the National League in wins above replacement (WAR).
Though Lagares has only two home runs and 32 RBIs in 297 AB this year, his fantastic defensive ability has garnered him a 4.2 WAR this season. In the NL, he trails only Giancarlo Stanton, Troy Tulowitzki, Jason Heyward, Andrew McCutchen, Jonathan Lucroy and Paul Goldschmidt. Meanwhile, he has the same WAR as Toronto slugger Jose Bautista and Brett Gardner, who is having an outstanding season for the Yankees.
Dodgers star Yasiel Puig, the MLB leader in hits Jose Altuve, and White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu all trail Lagares in this category, which seeks to summarize a players total contribution to his team.
While this statistic may not be without faults and prejudices, I raise this point if for no other reason than to highlight just how incredible Lagares has been defensively this season. His Defensive WAR is 2.8, a full half point higher than any other CF in the game (Jackie Bradley Jr. of the Red Sox stands at 2.3). Were he to qualify, Lagares’ 3.03 range factor would also lead the MLB among all outfielders. Still, despite missing time to two DL stints, Beyond the Boxscore ranks Lagares among the five best defensive players in baseball.
Often times, fans and pundits alike overlook the defensive aspect of the game in favor of offensive potential. We stuck Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda in the outfield for heaven’s sake. The recent call for Wilmer Flores to play every day at shortstop makes this an all too relevant issue. Defense matters and it determines the outcome of ball games.
I often find myself in awe of how effortless Lagares makes his job look. He has been a pleasure to watch this season, and I look forward to having him patrol the vast expanse of Citi Field for years to come.