Mar 16, 2016

2014 N.L. Gold Glove Center Fielder: Juan Lagares (2013-2016)

Juan Osvaldo Lagares was born on March 17,1989 in Constanza, Dominican Republic. The six foot, one outfielder attended high school at San Pedro de Macoris, a city that has exported some 76 different major league players including: Luis Castillo, Rico Carty, Pedro Guerrero, Juan Samuel & Tony Fernandez. 

 Lagares was signed by the New York Mets in 2006 & at first, played in the Dominican Summer League. He spent four seasons playing for the Savannah Sand Gnats, getting to the Mets A Ball; Brooklyn Cyclones club for 19 games batting .250. He spent 2009 back with Savannah as well as the Gulf Port Mets. 

In 2010 he hit nine triples (second in the South Atlantic League) & stole 25 bases in 30 attempts for the St. Lucie Mets. In 2011 he was promoted to the Mets AA Binghamton club where he hit .338 in 82 games.

In 2012 he fell to a .282 average but played a fine outfield, leading the Eastern League in assists (17) & put outs (353) setting a Binghamton Mets record. 

In 2013 he began the year at AAA Las Vegas & hit well, batting .346 through the first 17 games, with 13 runs scored. At the end of April he was called up replacing a struggling Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Lagares made his MLB debut, on April 23rd, in a 7-2 loss to the LA.A. Dodgers at Citi Field. In that game he got his first career hit, a single off Paco Rodriguez. With the '13 Mets outfield in question as to who has a regular job, Lagares began to see more playing time. 

On May 7th he got his next hit & then after a hitless game against the Chicago White Sox, he went on a three game hit streak working his average up to the .200 level.

On May 9th, he made a game saving catch, robbing the Pirates Andrew McCutchen of an extra base hit with a runner on & two out in a tie game in the top of the 9th inning. The Mets won the game on a Mike Baxter walk off game winning hit. 

On Sunday May 12th, he made another circus catch diving ahead for a ball, that landed in his glove then popped out up in the air as he landed on the ground. Lagares stayed focused & caught the ball a second time, making an outstanding play in the Mets 3-2 loss to the Pirates. 

 By now Lagares was getting a lot of attention for his outfield play. He was making the highlight reels with his leaping & diving catches. His arm was now respected throughout the NL. The question is can he hit at a major league level? On Sunday May 19th, he hit his first career HR, tying up a game at Wrigley Field off Cub's pitcher Travis Wood. The Mets went on to win the game as well. It took him until mid June to get over the .200 mark, as he had 15 hits over an 11 game span getting to .235. 

 On June 21st, his 6th inning double off Cole Hamels at Citizens Bank Park, scored the games winning run in a 4-3 win over the Phillies. On July 5th, he had his first three RBI day, in a 12-5 Mets win over the Brewers in Milwaukee. On July 21st, he repeated that feat with a three run HR against the Cliff Lee & the Phillies at Citi Field helping Matt Harvey to his 8th win.

On August 1st he peaked with a .275 average, proving he could play at the big league level. Later that week, he drove in all three runs in a 3-0 Mets win over the Colorado Rockies. Going into September he hit safely in 17 of 20 games, staying at the .270 mark. 

His hitting tailed off from there as he finished the 2013 year hitting .242 with 4 HRs 21 doubles 5 triples 34 RBIs six stolen bases in nine attempts, but a poor .282 on base %, while playing in 121 games. 

Defensively he began to show his talents, leading all NL center fielders with 14 assists & was second overall among all outfielders with 17 assists. He posted a .982 fielding % & his range factor was considered the best over nine innings among all NL center fielders. 

There was questions about Lagares being able to win the center field job starting out the 2014 season. There was competition in the outfield with guys like Eric Young & Chris Young. But it was quickly obvious, Lagares could not be overlooked. His play in the outfield was outstanding, as he made the highlight reels almost every night, making diving catches, sliding catches, leaping catches & throwing out runners.

He covered tremendous range & according to baseball reference had the best range factor of all outfielders. He made 12 assists & posted a .984 fielding%. Lagares became the third Mets outfielder in team history to win a Gold Glove. 

Lagares biggest question mark was his hitting, but he improved well, by raising his average forty one points. He began the season with an Opening Day HR, collecting two hits a walk & scoring three runs.

A good April had him batting .314 with seven RBIs & runs scored over 13 games, but he was then shut down with a hamstring injury for the next two weeks. Lagares would hit safely in 17 of his first 20 games. On May 17th, he hit a two run HR & had a three RBI day leading the Mets & Bartolo Colon to a 5-2 win over the Nats in D.C. His batting was steady as he was still above .290 at the end of May & he drove in 11 runs. 

In June he was back on the DL missing most of the month of June. In July, he had seven multi hit games, plus a streak of driving in six runs over a nine game span in the middle of the month.

On August 26th his 4th inning, two run HR off the Braves Alex Wood broke a 1-1 tie leading New York to a 3-2 win. That week, he drove in seven runs hitting a pair of HRs in just a four game span. 

Lagares started out September with a nine game hit streak, getting his average back over .280. On September 16th his season was cut a bit short by an elbow injury. On the year at the plate he hit .281 with 117 hits 24 doubles 4 HRs 46 runs scored 47 RBIs 13 stolen bases & a .321 on base %. 

2015: On April 2nd 2015 the Mets agreed to a four year extension worth $23 million through 2019.

Lagares started out the 2015 season as the Mets main centerfielder batting sixth on Opening Day. But it wasn't to be the season he was hoping for, as he had a hard time hitting right & suffered from an achy elbow which affected his fine defense.

In the early season subway series he had a four hit day as the Mets beat the AL New York team 8-2 behind Matt Harvey. As April went along he hit well enough to get his average up to a season high .311 by early May. Five muti hit games that week certainly helped his cause.

On May 9th his first HR of the year a two run HR in Philadelphia, helped lead the Mets & Jonathan Niese to a 3-2 win. On June 14th he had a three hit three RBI day, hitting his third HR of the year in a 10-8 Mets win over the Atlanta Braves. In the first week of July he drove in five runs helping a struggling Mets offense win four games.

On the July 31st trade deadline, the Mets acquired Yoenis Cespedes & Lagares became more of a fourth outfielder for the Mets. Rookie Michael Conforto was hitting well enough to be an everyday player & Curtis Granderson was having a fine year in right.

Lagares carried on about his business & was happy to contribute any way he could. In August he had himself five multi RBI games while hitting two HRs.

A quite September at the plate had him finish the year batting .259 with 114 hits 16 doubles 6 HRs & 41 RBIs. He played in 143 games, 139 games in the outfield posting a .993 fielding % with three assists & two double plays turned.

2016 Post Season: Lagares made his post season debut in the NLDS Game 31 as a defensive replacement in the 7th inning. He got the start in Game #3 at Citi Field hitting a double & drawing a walk while scoring three runs in the Mets 13-7 win over the LA Dodgers. 

He got the start against Clayton Kershaw in Game #4 going 1-2 in the 3-1 Mets loss. Lagares got another hit in Game #5, a double off Kenley Jansen in his only at bat. He was once again used for late inning defensive purposes.

2016 NLCS: Lagares got the start in Game #1 of the NLCS at Citi Field going 2-3 with two runs scored. In the 5th inning he followed Wilmer Flores with a base hit of his own & scored on Curtis Granderson's base hit putting the Mets up 2-1.

He later singled, stole third base & scored on Granderson's sac fly, leading to the Mets 4-2 win.

He would come in as a late inning defensive replacement the next two games & then come in the 2nd inning of the clincher game sweep Game #4 after Yoenis Cespedes was hurt.

2016 World Series: Lagares came into Game #1 of the World Series against the Kansas City Royals as a defensive replacement in the 6th inning. He may have been the hero if things wored out differently.

In the top of the 8th he singled off Kelvin Herrera & stole second base. He then scored on an error by Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. The run put New York up 4-3 but it wasn't to be.

Lagares got the start in Game #2 & went 0-3. He then got another post season hit in the only Mets series win, coming in Game #3. Overall Lagares had a fine post season at the plate, as he hit .348  going 8-23 with a walk & seven runs scored.

In his three year career he has played in 380 games with 326 hits, batting .261 with 14 HRs 61 doubles 13 triples & 122 RBIs while posting a .297 on base %. In the outfield he has a .987 fielding % with 12 errors in 892 chances & 12 assists.

Lagares came to Spring Training 2016 a lot leaner this year, losing some twenty pounds, after working out with Jose Reyes in the off season. He has also changed his eating habilts & is on a much better health kick.

Quotes: Juan Lagares for 2016- "I don’t know what’s going to happen yet. But like I said, I feel 100% and I’m ready to help the team in any way that they need me.”

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