Juan Osvaldo Lagares
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 175 lb.
- High School Centro Educativo Juan Pablo Duarte
- Debut April 23, 2013
Outfielder Juan Lagares started in the majors for a few years and won a Gold Glove.
Lagares was initially signed by New York Mets scouts Ismael Cruz and Juan Mercado in May 2006. He hit .255/.339/.412 and fielded .942 at short for the 2006 DSL Mets, finishing third in the Dominican Summer League with eight triples. He struggled in his US debut, hitting .210/.262/.317 and making 40 errors in 82 games at SS (fielding .911) for the Savannah Sand Gnats. He split 2008 between the Sand Gnats (.254/.285/.337 in 46 G) and the Brooklyn Cyclones (.250/.280/.389 in 19 G). In 2009, he was with Savannah (.274/.305/.333 in 47 G) and the GCL Mets (5 for 24, 2B, BB). He moved to the outfield that season. The next year, he played for Savannah for the fourth straight season, hitting .300/.318/.459 in 67 games; he also got into 33 games for the St. Lucie Mets and batted .233/.248/.316. He hit 9 triples and stole 25 bases in 30 tries, tying for second in the South Atlantic League in three-baggers (3 behind leader Evan Crawford). He was third in the Mets chain in triples and sixth in swipes.
2011 saw major strides for Lagares; he produced at a .338/.380/.494 clip in 82 games for St. Lucie and .370/.391/.512 in 38 games for the Binghamton Mets. He was third in the Mets chain in triples (9) and his .349 composite average led full-season Mets farmhands. He hit .283/.334/.389 with 6 triples for the 2012 Binghamton club. He set a Binghamton Mets record with 353 putouts, four ahead of Emmanuel Garcia's old mark. He also had 17 outfield assists, leading the Eastern League outfielders in both that department and putouts. Lagares began 2013 with the Las Vegas 51s, he batted .346/.378/.551 with 13 runs in 17 games. He was then called to the majors to replace Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
In his MLB debut, he entered in a double switch in the 5th, replacing Collin Cowgill in center with a 2-2 tie against the Dodgers. He flew out against Clayton Kershaw and singled off Paco Rodriguez in New York's 7-2 loss. As a rookie, he played 121 games, hitting .242 with 4 homers and 34 RBIs. His OBP was only .281, so most of his value derived from his defensive play in the outfield. He had his best season in 2014 when he won a Gold Glove for his defense in centerfield. He played 116 games, hitting .281 with 4 homers and 47 RBIs and managed to bring his OPS+ above average, to 102. In 2015, he was pat of the Mets team that made it to the World Series, as he played a career-high 143 games and hit .259 with 6 homers and 41 RBIs. After having improved his OBP to a decent .321 in 2014, it fell back to a well below-average .289 that year, and his OPS+ fell in parallel, to 79. He was at his best in the postseason, however, with a combined 8 for 23 (.348) in 13 games, with 7 runs.
After playing over 100 games in his first three seasons, he began running into repeated injuries starting in 2016, when he was limited to 79 games. He had just 142 at-bats, as he lost his starting job, and hit .239 with 3 homers and 9 RBIs. He played 94 games in 2017 but made only 58 starts in center field - although that was still the most on the team. He continued to be below average at the plate, hitting .250 with 3 homers and 15 RBIs, with an OPS+ of 75 - the lowest of his career. With an OBP under .300 and a slugging percentage below .400, it was really just his defensive play that was keeping him in the majors. In 2018, he started off very hot, however, hitting .339 in his first 30 games but on May 16th, he hurt his foot while crashing into the outfield fence, tearing a ligament, and it was announced a couple of days later that his season was over.
He was still the most-used center fielder for the Mets in 2019 but batted only .213/.279/.326 as his OPS+ fell to a new low of 62. He was resurgent in winter ball, hitting .337/.373/.404 for the Águilas Cibaeñas. Had he qualified, he would have been third in the Dominican Winter League in batting average (behind Moises Sierra and Jordany Valdespin). He only played two games for the Mets in 2020 and did not bat as Brandon Nimmo took over in center.
He was okay in the Dominican Winter League season (.283/.305/.348) but dazzled in the 2021 Caribbean Series with 8 RBI and a .316 average as the Águilas swept to the title. He went deep twice, including a three-run shot off Luis Medina in the opener. In the finale, he doubled in Ramón Torres with the winning run. He won Caribbean Series MVP for his efforts.
- NL Gold Glove Winner (2014/CF)