A thought when judging minor league talent as a fan – no snap judgments please:

As a case in point, let me revisit my takes on Juan Lagares, who had a solid offensive year with the Mets in 2014 to go with a superlative defensive season, followed by an awesome spring offensively so far this year.

In 2011, Juan hit .349 in a full year split between A and AA. The following year in 2012, he regressed to .283, with so-so power and on base %, in a full year in AA.  He had by the end of 2012 been in the system several years, haviing played his first year in the Developmental League as a shortstop at age 17.   The infield thing did not go well (too many errors – 73 in 195 games started) so he shifted to the outfield eventually.

 On another blog, in the spring of 2013, guys were discussing who should be on the 40 man roster. Many were vocal in wanting Juan excluded.

I countered that was...uhh, dumb...because many major leaguers have slump years, minor league guys can too, and that maybe Lagares merely slumped in 2012 and would rebound strongly in 2013.

I did not realize (as, likely other bloggers didn't) that Lagares was (as Keith H recently described him) the best fielding CF in my lifetime.  I had overlooked his healthy 46 outfield assists in 383 starts in the outfield and was assuming that defensively he was an average outfielder - little did I know.

So Lagares started well in AAA (.346/.378/.551 in 17 games) in 2013, when the Mets had a historically weak outfield and his competition (Dekker) got injured.  Up he comes, struggles a lot at first offensively (7 for 48 - ahh, pressure) and then established himself, hitting .255 the rest of the way. And his defense was opening everyone’s eyes. 

In early 2014, and off to a good start, I compared him on this website to a young Roberto Clemente - and a bunch of guys castigated me for it.  

So, I explained Clemente's first 5 years were fine but far from his Hall of Fame years to follow.  Lagares hit .281 in 2014, about the same as Clemente hit in his first 5 years, and Juan’s defense was as good or better than Roberto's, so it turned out to be a correct prognostication, too.

So now, I will expand upon that 2014 forecast...maybe this year, Juan starts to show he could give the height-of-career, Hall of Fame Roberto (and not just the lesser hitting young Clemente) a real run for his money.  Lagares may just show us he is a true all star this year.

I hope so.  I love overachievers, especially when they used to be (woof!) underdogs. I get my share wrong, but I try not to overlook or be quickly dismissive when analyzing players.

Sometimes, minor leaguers can stall a bit, as Lagares did in 2012, and have mediocre seasons. They're human.  Also, some guys may struggle early, then progress throughout a year, so just looking at a guy's full season numbers can be misleading and unfair.

I've seen a number of guys with strong improvement trends as seasons move along...for instance, Danny Muno.
Look at his numbers the last 3 months in 2013 and 2014 - he played a lot better later than the earlier months, showing me a guy who can handle adversity, work hard, and figure out how to get better.  

Full season stats don't tell you that.  Danny is impressing folks this spring...maybe he shocks a lot of folks and is a Met on opening day 2015.  Even I would not have guessed that last year.

So get the full picture on guys. If you do, you may see that guys like Juan or Danny may just see better players than appears at first glance.

As Bill O'Reilly says, "and that's the memo."


eraff said...

The Clemente comprison has absolutely no basis in fact... i love Lego!!!!!

eraff said...

The Clemente comprison has absolutely no basis in fact... i love Lego!!!!!

Reese Kaplan said...

You had me in your camp until you quoted Bill O'Reilly. :)

I'd settle for Lagares offensively having a career similar to Carl Crawford (not quite the same speed, but a .292 career avg with modest power would be terrific given his superior defense).

Mack Ade said...

It's tough to compare anyone to Clemenete but, good attempt Thomas

Thomas Brennan said...

I am going out on a long limb with the current suggestion that Lagares could be like Clemente in his prime years - but if at the end of 2015, he has had a mediocre season, I will admit the branch snapped!

I did take Clemente's first average 6 years and compare them to Juan's 2014: same # of at bats, Roberto had 94 combined runs and RBIs, Juan had 93. Extra base hits? Clemente 32, Juan 31. On base %? Identical. The only deviation was stolen bases, where Roberto averaged 3 steals and 4 CS, where Juan was 13 & 4. Overall, virtually identical.

So that is the basis of my "early Clemente" comparison - identical offensively, and if anything Juan superior defensively.

it was year 6, in 1960, where Clemente took off, with .314/.357/.458, and started to show the stuff of a future Hall of Famer. I think Lagares may not reach those #'s in 2015, but I am betting he gets close.

So, as I said, I did not make a "snap judgment" in comparing him to Roberto! Bring on the Juan of 2015, and let's see how high that ceiling is!

eraff said...

ok...I'm hoping he can "BE" Paul Blair.... "era normed" stat line is a 725'ish OPS with an excellent Glove and additive "Ground Game"

Thomas Brennan said...

Eraff, I'd be happy with Paul Blair, good comp possibility. I just hope Juan turns out to be a better hitter. After 2015, I think Juan's ceiling may be a whole lot clearer.

I had guessed early last year that Juan would hit .280 in 2014. I got lucky there, but it was based on his having a miserable start in 2013 as he adjusted to his first-time-in-bigs. After that, he hit around .255 in 2013, so to get to .280 from there, just 25 points, not 40.

I just think he'll hit better than .280 this year, and up the power (from Barwis training, shorter right center fences, and general improvement).

Boost his 2015 # of at bats, and I can't see why he'd not have 50-60 extra base hits this year.

Last note: he is listed in Baseball Ref.com at 215 pounds, which is I believe 40 over where he was listed at coming into 2013. If he is really 215, why couldn't he have lots of extra base hits?

eraff said...

Well... as I said...ERA NORMED stat line adds to the OPS...it's never a perfect comp, but Blair is a pretty good comp--- Blairs 680-690 lifetime OPS probably translates to 720-740, even given the resurgence of the pitcher and defense.

eraff said...

I'll refine my remarks by merely adding Blair's Stats--- the "main part" of his career is a 725-750 OPS Guy--- 1966-1974.

That would make Lego a Multi Allstar, given his D and some Ground Game growth.

eraff said...


Thomas Brennan said...

Yep, Eraff. I am still hoping the best, offensively, of Lagares exceeds Blair.

But Blair had a fine, long career, and Lagares has a long way to go to have a career that is good as Blair's - he might well not get there. Blair had 11 years with over 400 plate appearances, some of All Star quality, and 8 gold gloves. That kind of longevity, coupled with performance, is achieved by few.

Thomas Brennan said...

Right on cue, yesterday Juan goes deep again. Long's techniques may be about to boost Lagares offensively. He certainly has hit the stitches off the baseball this spring.

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