Coming off his worst major league season in 2015, Juan Lagares did little to settle the questions regarding his future role with the Mets in 2016.
The biggest positive to take away from the 2016 season for Lagares was his return to being an elite defensive center fielder. He had an impressive 8 defensive runs saved in center this year despite playing only 325.2 innings. Unfortunately, Lagares had a thumb injury that required two separate trips to the disabled list and surgery in August.
It was another frustrating year for Lagares offensively as he hit just .239/.301/.380 with seven doubles, two triples, three home runs and a career low four stolen bases. There are some positives on the offensive side as he set a career high with his 6.9% walk rate and his 16.9% strikeout rate was a career low. He also had a career best .141 isolated slugging percentage.
The Mets outfield for 2017 is a huge question mark as they wait for the inevitable opt out from Yoenis Cespedes and trying to re-sign him. They have Curtis Granderson under contract for the season, along with youngsters Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo.
They can also bring Jay Bruce back on a relatively inexpensive $13 million option as insurance for if Cespedes leaves. Either way it seems like the Mets will pick up the option but could trade Bruce if Cespedes does return.
Justin Ruggiano did well against left-handed pitching in a small sample size before suffering a season-ending surgery. He is arbitration eligible and a likely non-tender to create room on the 40-man roster. The only other outfielder under Mets team control for 2017 that hits right-handed is Ty Kelly (switch-hitter) but he is better suited for playing in the corners.
How much the Mets lean on Lagares for 2017 could depend on whether Cespedes returns and if he does, whether will be used in center. Given the Mets lack of right-handed hitting outfielders and options in center Lagares could see plenty of time late in games and against lefty pitching in the upcoming season.
What role do you think Lagares should play in 2017?