Maggie Wiggin, Contributor
In yesterday’s shutout loss to the Marlins, a rare event occurred – Juan Lagares didn’t have a hit.
In 19 starts this season, Juan Lagares has hit in 17 of them, the lone bright spot in an otherwise miserable offensive season for the Mets. His .826 OPS leads the team.
Lagares hasn’t lost a step since returning from the disabled list last week, hitting .321/.345/.500 since his return with an incredible five doubles in just 29 plate appearances.
The secret to Lagares’s success so far this season is a big jump in his line drive rate and many fewer ground balls.
He doesn’t have home run strength, so line drives are the key to his generating extra base hits. This type of power should continue to play well at Citi Field, where he can take advantage of big gaps in the outfield. If he can convert his natural speed into smart, efficient base-running, he could be a legitimate threat to hit triples as well.
There are a few red flags, though, that suggest Lagares still has some development to do.
His batting average on balls in play is an unsustainable .400, so it’s not likely that his .316 batting average will hold up long term.
His strikeout rate hasn’t improved since last season, but the real concern is that his walk rate has actually declined to a terrible 3.6%.
Now it may be that he’s just getting a lot of pitches to hit right now, so the real test will come when his bat cools down for a while.
While he may not maintain this All-Star-level production, there’s no question that Lagares has far exceeded even optimistic projections so far and has rightfully earned his everyday role. His prowess at the plate also hasn’t seemed to cost him much on field, where he’s on pace for another exceptional defensive season. At a time when nothing seems to be working for the Mets, it’s a comfort to see a young, athletic player take a key position and run with it.