New York Mets: is Juan Lagares’ glove golden?

I predicted at the beginning of this season that Juan Lagares would finish in the top 10 in Gold Glove voting. As it turns out, he has a chance to do significantly better than that.

New York Mets fans are all aware of Lagares’ defensive wizardry. Nationally, however he isn’t the first name to anyone’s lips despite what the statistics may show.

Lagares’ defensive prowess does not always show up in terms of diving catches. More often than not he makes tough plays look incredibly easy, mainly as a result of his ability to read a ball off the bat quickly and get incredible breaks.

However, that is not to say that he does not have a flair for the dramatic. He’s certainly made his share of highlight reel plays in his less than two full seasons as a pro.

To put the numbers in perspective, Lagares ranks in the top 10 in the majors in wins above replacement (WAR) with 4.9. This is despite the fact that Lagares’ batting numbers are really nothing special. He’s hitting .275 with three home runs and 38 RBI in 95 games. He has four stolen bases, 20 doubles and three triples as well. All in all, he’s hardly Miguel Cabrera.

What makes Lagares’ WAR so high is the defensive aspect of his game. Lagares leads all National League center fielders in Defensive Runs Saved, and it’s not even close. Lagares has saved 29 runs this season. The next highest center fielder is Ender Inciarte with 12. Billy Hamilton is third with 10. Nowhere on that list is Carlos Gomez, who is considered to be the favorite to win the Gold Glove.

Michael Baron, writer for MetsBlog.com tweeted some Lagares facts earlier this month:

That dWAR (Defensive Wins Above Replacement) of around 3.5 (it’s increased in the last week) is the best in the major leagues. Of his nearly 30 runs saved, only four are outfield assists. He led the majors with 15 last season and is already so feared that third base coaches have learned not to test Lagares’ right arm, leading to the decreased amount this year. While the assists may be down, the overall defense has been just as good.

In fact Lagares has been so good, that he now has the franchise record for most career defensive runs saved in just over 200 games. He recently passed Rey Ordonez, a defensive whiz in his own right, for that position. In comparison, Ordonez played for the Mets for seven seasons.

What’s a mystery is how little national attention he gets (looking at you ESPN). I understand that nobody is going to want to watch Mets highlights this year, but Lagares puts together a Top 10 caliber play every week.

Still don’t believe me? Here’s a look at Lagares’ 2013 defensive highlights.

Think that’s too dated and not relevant to the 2014 campaign? Ok here’s a gif of Lagares’ work in just one week of this season, earlier in August.

It’s pretty clear what I think. Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know who you think should win the Gold Glove in center field in the comments.

UPDATE:

Lagares has been named the Defensive Player of August. He led the majors with 13 runs saved in the month and now has 30 on the season. He is the first outfielder to have two consecutive years with 25+ runs saved since the stat started being recorded in 2003. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told ESPN’s Mark Simon “I said to my coaches, he might be the best center fielder in the National League. Now, a year later, there’s no doubt about it.” Clearly his renown goes beyond simply New York. Catch the rest of Simon’s article along with highlights here.

  • Christopher

    Interestingly, if you go to Fangraphs and look at the WAR leaders he isn’t listed. Evidently not enough ABs? Hamilton is outperforming Gomez as well, by a lot.

    • Dan Lagnado

      I should clarify. I got my WAR statistics from baseballreference.com. Could be an ABs thing he did miss some time with injury but that’s an odd discrepancy

  • Bradhansen

    He makes it look too easy. The MLB prefers regular guys making diving catches over the guy that is a black hole in CF.

  • Redlash

    Absolutely agree. He deserves CF gold glove and it’s not even close! Hoping the Mets dismal performance doesn’t lead to him being overlooked. He makes it look so easy you don’t even realize how amazing he really is.