Posted by Thomas Brennan at 10:00 AM
Tom Brennan - JUAN LAGARES: AVOID SNAP JUDGMENTS
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."