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New York Mets: Juan Lagares Continues to Show He Belongs in the Major Leagues

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COMMENTARY | The outfield situation for the New York Mets heading into the 2013 season wasn't a pretty one.

Sandy Alderson's attempt to find a young and proven MLB outfielder was unsuccessful, and the opening-day outfielders were Lucas Duda, Collin Cowgill and Marlon Byrd. While Byrd is having an outstanding year, Juan Lagares is the reason why the Mets don't have the worst outfield in the major leagues.

Prior to making his MLB debut on April 23, Lagares was busy tearing opposing pitchers apart in the Pacific Coast League. In 82 plate appearances, the outfielder hit .346/.378/.551 with three home runs and nine RBIs. A career .282/.322/.405 minor league hitter, he was likely benefiting a little bit from the friendly hitting environment that is Las Vegas.

However, with him playing well and the big league outfield not, he swapped places with Kirk Nieuwenhuis and made his way to Flushing.

Upon getting to the big leagues, I assumed Terry Collins would immediately insert him into the lineup because he was swinging a hot bat. That couldn't have been further from the truth. Through April and May, Lagares accumulated only 47 at-bats in 24 games played. He was used as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement, which made me scratch my head.

At the beginning of May, I noted both Lagares and Jordany Valdespin should receive more playing time from Terry Collins. Out of those two, I at least got one of them right. Since we're speaking in baseball terms, batting .500 isn't so bad.

As the month of June rolled around, Collins finally started to give him more consistent playing time in center field. His ability to play defense immediately showed, but he was also given the opportunity to display his ability with the bat. The 24-year-old registered 70 at-bats in June, and hit .271/.282/.386 with six doubles, five RBIs, and nine runs scored.

His performance with the glove and the bat earned him the platoon job in center field with Nieuwenhuis in July. With that vote of confidence, Lagares began to shine, hitting .353/.408/.529 with one home run, seven doubles and 13 RBIs.

As he continued getting into the lineup, it was clear the Mets continued to have more success. He's risen his season average up to the .270 mark. That's a far cry from what it used to be. I've always been a fan of lineup consistency, and I'm happy to see Eric Young, Jr., Lagares and Byrd perform well enough to be penciled in every day. It helps team chemistry and makes it easier to get on a roll.

The month of August will be a new experience for Lagares; Nieuwenhuis was his platoon partner in July, but he was recently sent back to Triple-A. Collins then said the young outfielder has earned the right to play every day moving forward. In many ways, this is an audition for Lagares to prove he should be part of the outfield in Flushing for 2014 and beyond.

It will now be his job to prove to the coaching staff he truly belongs. So far, he's been making a good impression; his defense has the potential to be Gold Glove-caliber, and his bat has also taken big steps forward. He's earned the reputation of being a hard worker, which is a good sign for his future development.

At this point, Juan Lagares has convinced me he should be on the 2014 opening-day roster for the New York Mets. How he performs the rest of the season will determine whether he reaffirms my belief, or changes my mind.

Matt Musico's Mets opinion has been featured on MLB Trade Rumors, MetsBlog, Amazin' Avenue, Mets Merized Online, and Rising Apple. He currently serves as the Executive Editor of MetsMinors.net.

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