Reese Kaplan - The Man Can Hit, Too


What kind of offensive player do the Mets have in Juan Lagares?  A lot of folks figure as long as he hits above league average, the way he plays defense pretty much makes him a sure bet to be in the lineup every day.  I started looking around the league to see what comparable I could find and didn’t have to go very far to identify a good one – Denard Span, centerfielder of the Washington Nationals.

Let’s take a look at Span’s numbers and you’ll see he’s a plus-plus defensive player who generates a good number of stolen bases, modest power and a decent batting average.  A typical 162 game year would include a .286 AVG, 6 HRs, 57 RBIs (though that numbers is trending downward as he’s serving as a leadoff hitter), 26 SBs, a .352 OBP, .392 SLG and a .744 OPS.

Parenthetically, Denard Span was profiled by Fangraphs back at the end of 2014 for his last two year period and compared to the Jacoby Ellsbury who took approximately $22 million per year to produce about the same results as did the Nationals’ Span. 

Juan Lagares last year in nearly 200 fewer ABs produced .281, 4 HRs, 47 RBIs, 13 SBs, a .321 OBP, .382 SLG and .703 OPS.  Where Lagares jumps significantly is in the defensive arena where he’s credited with being a 5.2 WAR player during 2014 whereas the veteran Span is rated a 3.2.  When you factor in the salaries – minimum wage for Lagares vs. $6.5 million for Span – the Mets really have something here in their everyday centerfielder.

The difference in their games is that in some ways Span is trending downward – RBIs, power – but improving in his pitch selection.  Lagares is trending upwards in terms of baserunning speed and run production but he’s still swinging and missing far more often than he’s getting a base on balls – a 4:1 ratio.  He’s stolen as many as 25 bases (caught 5 times) in a minor league season in a similar number of ABs, so stealing 30 over the course of a full season is not beyond reason.  

As he becomes a regular player, Lagares is beginning to match his minor league numbers which suggest there will be modest improvements in OPS, SLG and SBs.  Unfortunately his trend as a free swinger and fairly low OBP was present then, too.  In his final full season in the minors he did have less than a 3:1 K to BB ratio, so iff Kevin Long can preach better pitch selection it’s possible he can turn himself into a force in the leadoff position.  Right now, however, he’s probably better in the 8th spot in the batting order.


Tom Brennan said...

Agree, Reese. He can hit. You don't hit .350 in the minors in 2011 by accident.

I think he will hit better in 2015 than he did in 2014. Clemente was a free swinger too - Juan is what he is. Don't be surprised if that HR total does not jump - as you noted, he is bulked up, and he'll probably sneak a few over the shorter right center fences.

I don't want to see him steal 30, although he might be able to - it is a high risk endeavor in terms of getting hurt, so I'd be happy with 10 or 15.

Reese Kaplan said...

Ah, but you know, Tom, there is a certain bevy of bashers who maintain that whatever someone does in the minors is totally meaningless. I recently volunteered there are the rarities such as Harvey and de Grom whose major league numbers are actually better than the minor league variety, but FAR more often it's the other way around. The league is full of AAAA All-Stars who can't make that last jump. I firmly believe you go by the minor league numbers and hope that they are indicative of what a man can do. That's why I want to see Wilmer Flores get 600 ABs.

Tom Brennan said...

You and me both on Flores - 600 at bats or bust

eraff said...

Lagares has massive talent....but he's an "Athlete Batter", exclusively.

If he adds skill and approach, he'll be a 7 year fixture with an Allstar appearance or three...otherwise, he'll be into heavy regression toward sub 680 OPS and a 4/5 outfielder.... or worse!---it's tough to be a deep bench RH hitter...helps that he's a great defender.

Unknown said...

Lagares' minor league numbers support the fact that he can hit a little bit.

His worse OPS in his last 3 years in the minors was .718 - which was his only full season (130 games) at any level (AA) since 2011.

His K-rate was under 20%, his OBP that year was .329

He also stole 20 bases that year.

I think Lagares has shown improvement already

In 2013 he hit .242 with a .310 BABIP

In 2014 he hit .281 with a .341 BABIP

His batting average jump was 40 points while his BABIP only went up 30 - which is a sign of better approach / lower K-rate.

Speaking of K-rate:

2013 - 22%
2014 - 19%

Moving in the right direction.

Let's look at his splits last year:

His worse months were June (only 6 games) and July - when he was just getting back from his injury.

In May pre-injury, he put up a .740 OPS

And in August, by time he was completely healed: .710 OPS - and that was with a .304 BABIP

Sept - .747 OPS

I give him a mulligan on July because he was likely not 100% from his hamstring injury, which likely impacted his numbers some

I think a mid-700's OPS is well within his capabilities

Oh, he is a whopping 25 - still 3 years from his peak.

He adds any real pop (and he should be able to get to the 10 HR level) and he is a legitimate All Star

eraff said...

He's a great talent....you see him turn on a tough inside pitch...drive a low and outside pitch---he has real ability.

That said, last year was a bit of a BABIP boost..... was he more better versus more lucky?----he can be a LOT better!!!!

John Looby said...

I'm not sure I understand the negativity on Lagares and the predictions taht he will regress.

He's done nothing but improve year in, year.

Mack Ade said...

John -


I agree. In fact, I think Lagares is still learning hoe to hit at the major league level plus continue to gain more confidence in what he does.

Lagares is a very nice person that always tried (in a nice way) to convince the Mets coaches that he was being used incorrectly.

Sadly, he still is.

He is NOT a base stealer, nor is he a lead-off hitter. His offensive game is best suited to batting 8th and taking the pressure off him when he has a bat in his hand.

That Adam Smith said...

I dunno, Mack. He certainly looked like a capable base stealer over the last month of the season. That's not to say he should take off 50 times, but getting him 20-30 SB's with a low CS rate should be well within range.

I agree that he has looked, at times, like a kid who will put it together as a real, professional hitter. And it looks from here like he's worked quite a bit at that. Given his athleticism and the improvement we've already seen, I'm guessing that he will. If so - if he can hit a slightly more solid .280, and continue to cut down the K's, he's in the all-star conversation every year for the next 7 years.

I know that folks will say I'm crazy, but on this team, as currently constituted, I would start the season with Lagares hitting leadoff, with Flores 2nd, and Murphy hitting 8th, protecting Granderson in the 7-hole.

Mack's Mets © 2012