Yesterday, Juan Lagares played his first Spring Training game. He played three innings in center field while grounding out in his only at-bat.
The center fielder had been recovering from a strained left hamstring.
The 28-year old is likely going to see regular playing time for the rest of Spring Training as it appears likely that he will open the season as the starting center fielder until Michael Conforto returns.
Lagares is coming into this season with some added buzz around him after working with Craig Wallenbrock in the offseason, who is the same hitting instructor who improved the swings of Chris Taylor and J.D. Martinez.
This could potentially be his last chance to claim regular playing time with the Mets as once Conforto returns, the team will have a full outfield with Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes playing the corners.
All three of the aforementioned outfielders are under control for at least three more seasons, making it difficult to see Lagares claiming a spot in the outfield if he fails to produce in April.
As we all know, the defense is not a concern for the Lagares. He has 79 defensive runs saved for his career, including 15 this past season. That last number is only at his median as well. At his peak in 2013, he recorded an elite 26 defensive runs saved.
His ability, or inability, to perform offensively will ultimately be the what he will be judged largely on, assuming the defense remains at the level it has to date.
Lagares has a .257/.297/.366 slash line with a wRC+ of 84 in his five seasons in the majors.
This past season was no different as he hit .250/.296/.365 with three home runs and 37 RBIs to give him a below average 77 wRC+.
Other than his offensive history, another thing not working in his favor is the way Brandon Nimmo performed at the end of last year, as well as in Spring Training.
The 24-year old is 5-12 this spring with a home run, while hitting out of the leadoff spot. Last night, he went 2-3 with a triple to raise his average to .417.
After appearing to be stagnant in his development to an extent, the Wyoming product started to show some of the promise last season.
Nimmo hit .260/.379/.418 with a 117 wRC+ while drawing a whopping 33 walks in 215 plate appearances while recording -1 defensive runs saved playing all three outfield positions last season.
While, as mentioned previously, Lagares is likely to be the starting center fielder early in the season, Nimmo could make it hard for Lagares to get enough at-bats to prove he belongs in the lineup.
As a team vying for a playoff spot, the Mets are likely to put out whatever lineup gives them the best chance to win on a given day and worry about development later. If Nimmo continues to produce at this level, the Mets could very well try to platoon the two outfielders.