There has been a recent uproar over Terry Collins’s use of his four outfielders. Last week Collins chose to play Eric Young Jr. over Juan Lagares, resulting in Lagares sitting for four out of the six games. New York Mets fans everywhere were outraged and even started a Twitter campaign titled #FreeLagares. Collins backed up his decisions by saying that Young had been playing well and providing a spark to the lineup. While it may be true that since coming off the DL Lagares has slowed down offensively, he is considered to be a very important player for the future of the team.
Juan Lagares is the center fielder of the future and it seems as though he made a significant improvement in his approach at the plate this season as shown by his .302 batting average. Comparatively, Young is hitting a meager .221. That said, Young is by far the best option to bat leadoff as he provides real speed on the bases. Young led the league in stolen bases last season and already has 15 this year as well as leading the team in runs scored.
But other than speed-based statistics, Lagares has the advantage in every other offensive category. Lagares has more hits, more doubles, more home runs, fewer strikeouts and more RBI in 30 fewer at-bats than Young this season.
Add to that the fact that Lagares is a far superior defender to anyone on the roster and it becomes harder to understand the decision to give him three consecutive days off.
That said, I’m going to try. The primary argument for Young is that he’s a spark plug at the top of the lineup and that he has the ability to create runs on his own, in a manner similar to that of Jose Reyes. His ability to reach base and advance bases with his speed either on steals or productive outs helps to give the middle of the lineup RBI chances.
An additional argument could be that Young benefits struggling mid-lineup hitters, most notably David Wright. Wright has 25 RBI this season and it seems like most of that has come in the first inning with Young on base coming in to score. Daniel Murphy also benefits from Young’s ability to get himself into scoring position.
Finally, Young helps the Mets to build early leads. While they are not always able to hold them, to have a lead early on does give a team an advantage.
All of this said, it will likely be too hard to keep Lagares out of the lineup. He is a young player who is in his first full big league season. Lagares is not suited to be coming off the bench and pinch hitting. He needs to develop as a hitter and in order to do that he needs to play every day. Plus his defense is so good that he is able to help the team and a young pitching staff.
Eric Young Jr. is a veteran player more suited to be a switch hitter off the bench or a pinch runner and defensive replacement late in the games.
So while it is possible to understand why Terry Collins made the decision he did, in the long run Juan Lagares needs to be playing just about every day in order to encourage his growth and ensure that he becomes the player he has the potential to be.