However, in regards to center field, the Mets have Juan Lagares, who is in his contract year and is coming off injury, the newly acquired Keon Broxton from Milwaukee, and Jeff McNeil who will be trained as an outfielder this Spring.
An interesting storyline this spring is going to see these three guys duking it out, and to see if any of them come up with the upper hand.
Lagares is as interesting as always, as when he’s healthy, he is one of the best center fielder’s in the league. Having him man central will help the defense ten-fold, as he can track down seemingly anything hit to him.
In 128.1 innings last year before Lagares got hurt, he recorded a 1.4 UZR, and five defensive runs saved (DRS) before he got hurt and missed the remainder of the season.
Over a full season, we can see what he is capable of even more so. in 2013 and 2014, Lagares logged 26 DRS in back-to-back years. And even in 2017 where he logged 566.2 innings, he had 15 DRS.
Lagares is an elite center fielder defensively, but health is what it comes down to. If he has a strong spring, there’s no reason he shouldn’t get ample playing time in 2019.
As for Broxton, he profiles similarly to Lagares defensively with a little bit more pop at the plate. In just over 100 innings in 2018, Broxton registered an astounding 11 DRS and had a great 6.5 UZR.
Earlier this week at Citi Field, I asked Mets’ GM Brodie Van Wagenen what his thoughts were on how Broxton and Lagares would play out playing time wise.
He said, “we hope to use all 25 guys on our roster. As we designed it, Lagares and Broxton have very similar skillsets and both guys can really change the game defensively. So in addition to being out there in centerfield alone, they could also both be in the outfield at the same time in left and center or right and center, so we intend to use both guys.
“We know Broxton’s speed and power add an additional element to our club and we hope both guys can be out there a lot.”
I really think that if Lagares is healthy, he will win the starting role with Keon Broxton as a backup. I also think that will allow Jeff McNeil to play all around the diamond, which is likely to happen since his bat is so valuable.
However, if Lagares gets hurt, I think Broxton will see a majority of the reps in center, with McNeil getting more outfield reps at a corner position, allowing Nimmo or Conforto to play center.
The Mets also have some outfield reinforcements in case of injury in Braxton Lee and Rajai Davis. But who knows? Brodie has been unpredictable in moves this winter, so maybe some even more outfield depth could be had before the season.
It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out and I know I’ll be following along all spring.