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Mets 101 Camp Battles Series: Center Field

February 25th, 2014 at 8:12 PM
By Mike Phillips

This week at Mets 101, we are going to give you a look at some of the most important positional battles at training camp this season. While the New York Mets did upgrade their team by adding key free agents like Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon, they didn't find a true answer to all of their problem spots from last season. Today we will look at the starting center field job, which could fall a number of different ways depending on how the rest of the roster shakes out.

The Favorites:

'Juan Lagares' photo (c) 2013, slgckgc - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Juan Lagares: Lagares enters the spring with a shot to win the starting center field job because of his superb defense. Lagares played Gold Glove caliber defense last season, racking up 14 outfield assists and compiling a 3.5 defensive WAR (wins above replacement). The problem for Lagares is his bat. Lagares hit .242 with four homers and 34 RBI's last season to go along with a .352 on base percentage. While the Mets could survive using his subpar (0.3 offensive WAR) bat at the bottom of the order, the Mets also are weak offensively at first base and shortstop. Unless Lagares tears the cover off the ball in the spring, he could be in jeopardy of a numbers crunch.

Eric Young Jr: Lagares' primary competition for the center field job is Eric Young Jr. EY was a tremendous spark for the Mets last season as the team played .500 ball after he arrived in a trade from Colorado. Young went on to lead the National League in stolen bases with 46, but he was slighly exposed with everyday playing time. Young is a strong defender as well, but not as good as Lagares. What Young offers the Mets is a stronger offensive option as well as a natural leadoff hitter, which the Mets currently lack.

The Long Shot:

Matt den Dekker: Matt den Dekker is another option for the Mets in center field. While den Dekker is another prodigious glove man, his bat is a major question mark. In 2013, den Dekker only hit .207 at the major league level with one home run and four RBI's in 58 at bats. The more alarming number is the 23 strikeouts den Dekker racked up, averaging one every 2.5 plate appearances. In the end, den Dekker's best chance at making the team probably is as a defensive replacement.

The Sleeper: 

Chris Young: While Young was signed to be the team's primary right fielder, he does have a lot of experience playing center. The Mets have a couple of different ways to structure their offensive group, and Young may end up in center field by necessity. 

Who Wins?

This one will be a nail biter and could be influenced by external additions. If the Mets replace Ruben Tejada at shortstop with an offensive upgrade during the spring, Lagares may get an edge due to his strong defensive skills. Otherwise, this spot may come down to who is hitting better between Lagares and Eric Young Jr. Given track records and the team's need for a leadoff hitter, we are projecting that EY wins the job to start the season.

 

Just because the Super Bowl left NY/NJ it doesn't mean the NFL action is over. Come see the Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Liberty Science Center see jerseys worn by legends, make the tough call under the hood, try on equipment and get immersed into football like never before.

Just because the Super Bowl left NY/NJ it doesn't mean the NFL action is over. Come see the Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Liberty Science Center see jerseys worn by legends, make the tough call under the hood, try on equipment and get immersed into football like never before.

Tags: Baseball, Chris Young, Eric Young Jr, Juan Lagares, Matt Den Dekker, MLB, New York, New York Mets

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