Three Potential Breakout Hitters for Mets in 2014

juan lagares

Juan Lagares

‘Don Juan’ Lagares quickly stole the hearts of many Mets fans last season with his spectacular play in the outfield.  He makes tough plays look routine and impossible plays a reality.  Unfortunately, defense isn’t everything in baseball and with the exception of a scorching hot July, Lagares struggled mightily with the bat.

In 392 AB’s, Lagares ended the season with a .242/.281/.356 slash line with only 20 BB’s and 96 K’s.  There’s no doubt he needs to work on his plate discipline to find offensive success at the big league level. He doesn’t have much power potential so, in order to maximize his value, he should be trying to get on base any way he can. Becoming a bit more picky at the plate will yield him better pitches to hit and will allow him to draw more walks.

Lagares has decent speed so he could be a moderate stolen base threat, but he will need to increase his OBP by a significant amount for that to happen.  Don Juan was putting up impressive numbers in the Dominican Winter League before he went down with a knee injury but his success there was against inferior competition and should be taken with a grain of salt.  It is still a promising sign, nonetheless.

There have been grumblings that Eric Young Jr. may end up taking Lagares’ starting job because the Mets lack a true leadoff hitter, but hopefully that is not the case.  Many are expecting improvement out of Lagares this upcoming season and I’m one of them.  He knows what he needs to work on and if he can refine his approach at the plate, he should be able to hit enough to justify making center field his permanent home.

Travis d’Arnaud

Travis d’Arnaud had a rough go last season after missing a good chunk of the year with a fractured foot.  After his rehabilitation, he put up good numbers in the minors and when John Buck left on paternity leave, he got his shot.  He was far from impressive with a .202/.286/.263 slash line and 21 K’s in 99 AB’s.  I’m going to cut him some slack for these numbers because catching is usually a defensive first position and Travis had to first prove he could handle the backstop duties on a daily basis, which included getting accustomed to an unfamiliar pitching staff.  He had some trouble blocking pitches but looked good back there for the most part.

This season, however, he is definitely expected to perform much better with the bat.  Although with some swing and miss potential, he has a gorgeous swing that should be able to hit for at least a .280 average if he can stay healthy.  He should also be able to hit a fair share of bombs as his swing generates some power.  The Mets are starving for any extra offense they can get even after their winter additions and d’Arnaud could be a huge contributor in that department.  If he can stay healthy for a full year, something he has struggled to do thus far in professional ball, I expect he can put up above average numbers or at least significantly better numbers than last season.

Ruben Tejada

Before I am burned at the stake and proclaimed a witch, let me state my case.  Yes, I am aware of the abysmal season Tejada had and the questionable effort he gave last year.  A .202/.259/.260 slash line is frightening from any position on the field, but are we just going to completely disregard his promising 2012 season?

In 464 AB’s, Tejada batted .289/.333/.351.  This was his age 22 season and is not a small sample size.  I don’t see why he isn’t capable of putting up these kind of numbers again.  There has been some buzz that the Mets might be looking to trade for various shortstop prospects which does not make much sense to me.  If you’re going to take a chance on a young, unproven shortstop why not let that shortstop be Tejada?

The Mets have given so many chances to Ike to let him prove himself and I think Tejada deserves one of these chances as well, albeit with a short leash.  I think part of the reason Tejada put up such horrible numbers last season was because after his 2012 season, he became too comfortable.  I think he assumed he already proved himself and the starting job was his for the future.  I’m sure, by now, he has realized that is not how this game works.  If Tejada is given a shot to prove his unworthy effort last season was a fluke, I think he will have a better season than Stephen Drew and you can quote me on that.

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