Juan Lagares: 2014 N.L. Gold Glove Center Fielder (2013 - 2019)

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. He began playing in the Dominican Summer League. 

Lagares 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 Lagares 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. 

Mets Career: Lagares made his MLB debut, on April 23rd, 2013 in a 7-2 loss to the LA. Dodgers at Citi Field. In that game he got his first career hit, a single off Paco Rodriguez. With the 2013 Mets outfield in question as to who had 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 game 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 were 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. 

2014: Going into the next season, 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 Mets Pennant Season:
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.

2015 Post Season-NLDS: Lagares made his post season debut in the NLDS Game #1 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.

2015 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 & scored on Curtis Granderson's single 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.

Lagares would come in as a late inning defensive replacement the next two games. In Game #4 he then came in, in the 2nd inning after Yoenis Cespedes got injured.

2015 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 worked out differently. 

In the top of the 8th he bunted for a single 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. The Royals tied it & won it in the 14th innings with a sac fly walk off.

Lagares got the start in the 7-1 Game #2 loss in Kansas City going 0-3. 

In the Game #3 Mets win at Citi Field, Juan got another post season hit in the Mets only series win. In the 6th inning he singled off Franklin Morales, then came around to score on Juan Uribe's pinch hit single, putting the Mets up 6-3.

In the Game #4 loss he would come in as a defensive replacement in the 8th inning. 

In Game #5 Lagares came on in the 7th inning as a defensive replacement once again. He got two at bats going 0-2 finishing the 12 inning Mets loss in centerfield.

Overall Lagares had a fine post season at the plate, as he hit .348 going 8-23 with a walk & seven runs scored.

After the Pennant -2016: 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 habits & was on a much better health kick.

Quotes- Juan Lagares: "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.”

Lagares entered 2016 as a reserve outfield, behind Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson & Michael Conforto. Opening Day 2016 Lagares got a hit with a run scored in the Mets 4-3 loss at Kansas City. He would stay consistent hitting .280 through May. 

On May 27th, he had three hits with a HR & three RBIs in a 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He would play just seven games in June, missing time with a thumb injury. He then missed all of August & half of September too.

By this time the Mets had acquired Jay Bruce & Juan's role remained that of a backup, even after Michael Conforto had lost his starting spot. After peaking at .286 in early July his average dropped off to .239 by seasons end. The Mets earned a wild card spot finishing off at 87-75.

Overall, playing in 79 games he hit 3 HRs with 7 doubles 2 triples 9 RBIs & 15 runs scored, stealing four bases & posting a .301 on base %.

2016 Wild Card Game: He did not see action in the 2016 NL Wild Card loss to the Giants.

With the Mets not able to shop Jay Bruce in the off season, the Mets have a very crowded outfield. There was interest in Lagares during early Spring, but nothing materialized & the fine defensive outfielder once again must prove he can hit to make the Mets outfield.

photo by centerfieldmaz
2017: Juan was once again limited by injuries. He got into his first game on April 13th. He did not
get his batting average over .200 until May 3rd.
On June 11th his 3rd inning RBI single against the Atlanta Braves proved to be the winning run as Seth Lugo, Jerry Blevins & Addison Reed held down the Braves for the win.

From June 15th he went on the DL with another thumb injury, not returning until two months later in mid-August. 

In that summer's subway series, he made a sparkling running catch stealing a sure double in right centerfield. He collected four hits in that series as well.

In September he had six multi-hit games while also hitting safely in 11 of 15 games.

For the 2017 fourth place Mets, he played in 94 games batting .250 with 63 hits 16 doubles 2 triples 3 HRs 15 RBIs a poor .296 on base % & 7 stolen bases. In the outfield, he shined once again, even in limited play he led the Met outfielders with seven assists.

2018: In the 2017-2018 off season, he spent ten days in California with noted hitting guru Craig Wallenbrock, working a new approach to the plate & a new swing.

But once again injuries ruined his season. On May 17th, he tore the plantar plate in his toe while attempting a diving catch. He missed the rest of the season. Lagares only played in 30 games batting a promising .339 with 6 RBIs (59 at bats).

In the off season, it looked like he would get traded but nothing ever came of it.

2019: Lagares began the season hitting a HR in his fourth game, the earliest of his career. He also drove in runs in three straight games.

On May 22nd, he had a three RBI game, against the Washington Nationals. He doubled with the bases loaded, clearing the bases in a 6-1 Mets win over the Nationals.

Grand Slam- Six RBI Game: On September 12th, in a 11-1 win over Arizona at Citi Field, Lagares had a career day. In the 3rd inning he belted his first grand slam HR coming off pitcher Alex Young. In the 5th inning he added a two run HR off James Sherfy to have a career high six RBI game. 

For the 2019 Mets who went 86-76 just missing a wild card spot, Juan batted just .213 which was a career low. He hit 5 HRs with 12 doubles a triple 4 stolen bases 38 runs scored & 27 RBIs. He posted a terrible .279 on base%.

He was granted free agency after the 2019 season getting signed by the San Diego Padres. They released him that July & he was resigned by the Mets. In the 2020 Covid shortened season he played defensively in two games.

Mets Career Stats: In his eight-year career with the Mets he has played in 718 games with 498 hits, batting .254 with 25 HRs 97 doubles 19 triples & 179 RBIs while posting a .279 on base %. In 668 games in the outfield, he played 655 in center. Overall, he posted a .987 fielding % with 19 errors in 1375 chances while making 35 assists.

Post Mets Career: Lagares was granted free agency, then signed on with the L.A. Angels. In 2021 he played in in 112 games batting .236 making five outfield assists. In 2022 he signed a contract in May playing just 20 games with the at the big-league level, getting granted free agency a month later. 

KBO: Juan then played the rest of the year in Korean baseball.

Career Stats: In a ten-year career he batted .250 with 582 hits 119 doubles 22 triples 31 HRs & 217 RBIs with 270 runs scored. He struck out 528 times with 120 walks for a .291 on base % & .651 OPS.

In 801 games in the outfield, he won a Gold Glove, had 41 assists & made four double plays. He made 20 errors in 1574 chances posting a .987 fielding % with many spectacular catches.

Lagares was always known & praised for his glove. Patrolling the outfield making sparkling, dazzling catches almost every day. 

Family: Juan is not married & has one son Juan Jr. His name is stitched in Juan Sr.'s baseball glove.


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