The news coming out of Flushing the past couple of days is starting to point to what may be a difficult pill for many Mets fans to swallow—Juan Lagares is starting to look like the odd man out in the Mets outfield in 2014.
For whatever reason, Terry Collins seems happy heading into 2014 with Eric Young Jr being the leadoff hitter in the Mets’ lineup. Adam Rubin, of ESPNNewYork.com, reports that Collins reiterated that EYJR is his favorite candidate for the leadoff role this season again on Thursday evening.
Rubin also notes that Sandy Alderson has stated that Lucas Duda will be used in an outfield capacity, and Collins used the word “platoon” when describing it. Collins also stated that he wants to get Ike Davis about twice as many at-bats this spring in order to avoid a slow start in 2014.
What the heck is going on here?
About three weeks ago, the Mets were trying to get Davis on the first train out of town, Duda was slated to be our starting first baseman, and Lagares was believed to be on his way to winning a Gold Glove Award in 2014. Fast forward to today, and now Davis looks to be the starting first baseman, Duda is going to platoon in the outfield, and Lagares may start the season in Las Vegas. Oh, and I almost forgot that Wilmer Flores will be getting a tryout of sorts at shortstop again this spring.
Am I surprised with any of this? Nope. Not at all. Nothing surprises me when it comes to the Mets anymore.
Here’s the deal. I stated it in a post earlier, and I will state it again in case you didn’t get a chance to read it. When I was being recruited to play college ball, one of the main questions I would ask was whether I would start right away. The response I often heard was “if you can hit, you will play.” In other words, the best offensive player with get the time—the coaches really never cared who the best defender was. That always resonated with me. This is how it is at any level of baseball.
I hate to break the news, but just because Lagares is a great defender doesn’t mean he has locked down the job. It doesn’t matter how many stats you point to that shows he saved X number of runs last year. The way the Mets are going to look at it now is how many runs will Lagares cost them by having him in the lineup? They aren’t forced to play him anymore because there isn’t a better offensive option.
Lagares got called up because he was performing outstanding offensively in Las Vegas in 2013—if the Mets had anyone else to play in center last season while Lagares was struggling offensively, he would have been sent back down. They didn’t call him up for his defense.
Lagares is an outstanding defender—there is no doubt about that. But he needs more offensive development. If you are going to make a serious run at the playoffs, you are not going to want a player that is an offensive project in the lineup.
Do I think EYJR is an upgrade offensively over Lagares? No. In fact, they were both pretty awful in 2013. Lagares had a wRC+ of 75 and Young was a 78. But the Mets need a leadoff hitter and they think Young Jr. is the man for the job. His slightly higher OBP and his ability to steal bases seem to be giving him an offensive advantage in Collins’ eyes.
The best offensive players will be on the field, period. The Mets would feel very comfortable with Chris Young in center (he’s no slouch defensively), and Eric Young Jr in left. In fact, it’s looking more and more like this is exactly what Collins wants.
The Mets just dished out over $20 million for Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, so you know those guys will be in the lineup. I’m sure the Mets are expecting 45-50 home runs combined between the two of them. That last outfield spot is coming down to EYJ, Lagares and now Duda is back in the mix. It actually sounds like Duda may get more playing time than Lagares, which just goes to show what coaches and executives think about offense and defense. Offense will always prevail.
The Mets love Duda’s offensive approach. Collins loves EYJR as the leadoff hitter. Lagares plays awesome defense. Who do you think will be the odd man out?
Check out this potential lineup for opening day in the Grapefruit League…
1. Eric Young Jr, LF
2. Daniel Murphy, 2B
3. David Wright, 3B
4. Curtis Granderson, RF
5. Chris Young, CF
6. Ike Davis, 1B
7. Wilmer Flores, SS
8. Travis d’Arnaud, C
I don’t think anyone had that in mind a couple of weeks ago.