This post has taken a different turn since we had it originally planned before spring training. Before spring training, Juan Lagares was going to be the 4th outfielder, his projections were going to be seen through that lens and then the Mets would have some tough decisions to make about playing time once Cespedes got back and McNeil would end up being knocked around.
But with Lowrie and Frazier still injured, and the Mets without signing a big name outfielder, McNeil might have to spend more time in the infield than originally thought, meaning that Lagares and Broxton will spend more time starting in the outfield than originally thought.
As injury seasons go for Lagares 2018 was even worse than usual:
2018: 64 PA, 59 AB, 0 HR, .339/.375/.390, 1.0 WAR, 88 DRC+
Career: .260/.300/.367, 78 DRC+
Although it was a small sample size, it looked like Lagares, who spent the spring before last year retooling his swing, finally turned a corner and was turning into one of the more consistent hitters in the Mets lineup. But then he got hurt, again and this year the Mets actively prepared for him to get hurt again by bringing in Keon Broxton as back up.
Here are what computers think Juan will do this year:
(Citations: Baseball Prospectus (BP) projections are from the Baseball Prospectus annual which can you can get here. It’s highly recommended. ESPN projections can be found here. ZiPS can be found here. Steamer can be found here. Baseball Reference projections (BR) can found on the players BR page which linked elsewhere on this article. )
For the most part, the computers are not down with the idea of Juan Lagares coming back better than ever, with the exception of of ESPN. They think Juan is going to perform way above his average year numbers. Everyone else is peering into and weighing his injury history a lot.
Out of the Mets outfield options: Broxton, Rajai Davis, Liriano, Blanco and now Carlos Gomez, Juan Lagares is clearly the best option. This has never been the question this off-season. The question does he play well enough to be in the starting lineup when an outfielder needs a day off or early in the season when McNeil is needed in the infield. Only time will tell.