Note: The Mets may have found a niche for Juan Lagares
Juan Lagares has had a trying 2015 season, to the point he had been relegated to the bench in place of Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Kelly Johnson, and frankly anyone else who had a higher on-base percentage than Lagares.
But Lagares has experienced a renaisance of sorts over the last couple of weeks in this part-time, specialized role role.
On Friday night against the Pirates, Lagares went 2-for-5 with double and a run scored to extend his hitting streak to four games.
But Lagares’ success stretches beyond those four games. He has recorded five extra-base hits in his last ten games, good for a 1.208 OPS in 23 plate appearances during that span.
Lagares had five extra-base hits in his previous 36 games.
The common denominator for this uptick? It’s coming primarily against left-handed pitching.
He has been solid against lefties all year long, hitting .294/.355/.447 with 17 strikeouts and nine RBI in 93 plate appearances against southpaws. And, his last three starts have all come against left-handed pitching, during which he has recorded six hits in those three games.
His issues have come against right-handed pitching, and those issues have made him mostly ineffective in those situations. He has an unsightly .598 OPS with 54 strikeouts in 302 plate appearances against right-handers this season, which has watered his on-base percentage down to only .289 overall.
It’s not ideal to transition Lagares, who the Mets have signed to a five-year contract extension, into a part-time player. He still struggles badly with his plate discipline regardless of the match-up – he is swinging at 37.7 percent of pitches outside of the zone this season, a career-high off of a pre-existing problem.
But if this is what Lagares is at this point in his career, and the Mets can keep him productive by limiting his at-bats, that’s fine as long as they continue to maintain quality depth on the roster going forward.