Does Juan Lagares’ Defense Warrant A Starting Job No Matter What?

future stars lagares

We all know the deal by now: Juan Lagares is pretty good in the outfield. No, scratch that — he’s probably the best defensive center fielder I have seen on the Mets since Carlos Beltran. He takes great routes to balls, accelerates with ease, and packs a cannon for an arm. He’s always been touted as a potential prospect in the Mets system and the guys here at MMO have always liked him as well. When I ranked him in our Top 25 in the offseason last year, I distinctly remember Joe D. getting into an argument defending the call…and well, looks like it worked out okay.

In fact, he’s actually forcing me to learn some new stats to describe how good he is. My colleague Xtreemicon explained the “ARM” stat to me, which Juan Lagares leads the league in. Basically, it’s a stat, plus or minus like WAR, that gives credit to outfielders based on how runners react to their fielding. Runners can stay, take an extra base, or get thrown out — so the stat accounts for runners staying put or not taking the extra base out of fear of being thrown out, which is also rewarded.

So Lagares finds himself in good standing because he’s tied for the NL League in OF assists with 11. The crazy thing about anything cumulative like ARM or Defensive Runs Saved is that Lagares hasn’t had as much time in the outfield as some of the other candidates, yet he’s tied for the NL lead in Assists and he’s third in the NL in Defensive Runs Saved. Lagares came up in Keith Law’s chat yesterday…

For a guy who’s been traditionally down on Mets players and prospects, calling Juan Lagares a long-time big leaguer is a hell of a compliment. If Lagares does post a .260/.300/.400 slash, he could definitely get by as a center fielder with the Mets, especially since he’s going to contribute a healthy amount of stolen bases in the lower third of the lineup as well.¬†There’s also been talk about a platoon between Lagares and Matt den Dekker, but the hope is that at least one of them will blossom into an average offensive player.

But what do you all think? If Lagares drops below that .260/.300/.400 baseline, should he be benched? Or is he good enough defensively that we should keep him in the line-up no matter what?