Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares and style of play

The Mets have traded a bunch of productive offensive players and the ones they didn’t trade are on the disabled list. Therefore, it’s not a surprise that in their last 17 games the Mets are averaging just 3.7 runs per game. Sure, they’ve played good teams in that stretch. They’ve also played the Marlins and Reds, whose pitching staffs are hardly the stuff of legend. The Mets have managed just six runs the past two days against the Reds.

It’s a far cry from May, when the club averaged 5.7 runs per game. But few liked that club, which, as the complaints go, was filled with one-dimensional, non-clutch performers. Better to ditch them now for a bunch of guys who, if everything breaks right, might develop into 2017 Hansel Robles. But better something than nothing and at least this way they can let the kids play. Even if it took two outfield injuries to get Brandon Nimmo in the lineup and Gavin Cecchini still barely gets off the bench.

Are Cecchini and Nimmo long-range answers? No, probably not. But neither are Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes yet they don’t seem to have trouble getting playing time in this season that’s gone down the tubes.

We all know by now that Sandy Alderson’s preferred way to build an offense is to focus on power bats. And if we’re being honest, neither Cecchini nor Nimmo seem to offer much promise in that regard. Maybe they can develop some doubles power but the idea that either would collect 20 HR in a season seems far-fetched.

My preference is for power, too. But one of my core baseball principles is that there is more than one way to get things done. There are benefits out there for the taking if 29 clubs insist on doing things one way by moving in the opposite direction. From a theoretical standpoint, if all of the other clubs are chasing power, you can assemble a good team by chasing contact.

I can feel the excitement in the room already. For years there has been no shortage of comments from readers who would rather lose a game 3-2 where the two runs scored thanks to hit-and-runs and sacrifice flies than to win a game 7-3 when four runs came on solo homers. Personally, the allegiance to a certain style of play over results never made any sense to me. It makes no difference to me if the wins come by a majority of 2-1 scores or 8-4 ones. Just as long as the winning percentage exceeds .600 – that’s what matters.

For the record, it would be great to live in Lake Woebegone where all of the players were above average and excelled in all facets of the game. But those players are few and far between and tend to be very expensive. You have to make choices in the real world.

The Mets will have to make choices on two players who are, perhaps not polar opposites but rather on opposite sides of the fence. In one corner we have Juan Lagares, who is the best defensive player on the team and one who thrives offensively when he carries a high BABIP and the hits are falling in. And in the other corner we have Wilmer Flores, who is a defensive disaster who thrives when hitting the ball for power.

Can you commit to one style of play and still keep both players as more than bench players?

The speed-happy Cardinals featured first George Hendrick and later Jack Clark, so the answer is yes. But those Cardinals employed those sluggers at first base and outfield. If the Mets go for a contact-over-power approach, they would seem to have an ideal first baseman in place in Dominic Smith. And the Mets have never been open to play Flores in the outfield. If they’re going to play a game where runs are scarce, can they afford to play him somewhere besides first base? Second would seem to be the next best position but they insist on making him a third baseman, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Meanwhile, Lagares is still the same guy. The good news is that his defensive numbers seem to have gone back to 2013-14 levels, which makes carrying his bat more palatable. This was far from a given, as generally speaking defense declines earlier than offense. The bad news is that he still can’t stay healthy and he still contributes very little besides singles. Since returning from the DL, he has a .529 OPS, with just 3 XBH and 2 BB in 63 PA. For the season he has a .105 ISO and a 4.8 BB% and both marks are bad.

Neither Flores nor Lagares are perfect players. Which player is more likely to have his strengths outweigh his weaknesses over a full season? Does either player still have likely growth? Does either have likely regression? Both are going to play a lot the remainder of the season for anyone who hasn’t made up their minds on the player yet.

10 comments for “Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares and style of play

  1. Jimmy P
    August 31, 2017 at 10:44 am

    It’s funny you keep thinking of Flores as an outfielder. I don’t see it at all.

    I believe in variety. Actually, the deeper I’ve gotten into baseball, the more I’ve learned, the more stats I’ve been exposed to, the more I’ve come to appreciate the old-fashioned idea of a classic lineup, which was all about variety.

    The speedy table-setters up top (getting on base > speed), the best all-around hitter at #3, the power/RBI guys at 4-5, a dangerous bat at #6-7, and the defense-first guy at #8.

    So, yeah, what a casual fan knew 80 years ago strikes me as still powerfully true today.

    Sure, every team will have variations of the above, you have to play who you’ve got, but I do see the ideal offense as a Swiss army knife with a variety of tools.

    Which is to say that, theoretically at least, sure, a Lagares and a Flores can certainly co-exist in the same lineup. It all depends on the other 6 pieces. Those two would not at all be my core guys. But if they fit, they fit!

    • August 31, 2017 at 11:14 am

      Sorry for the confusion – I don’t think about him being an outfielder. Just mentioning the Mets’ refusal to play him there despite having no qualms about trying Lucas Duda there, which should give everyone an indication of how bad they think he would be.

      You bring up an interesting point about variety. I don’t like Joe McEwing variety at all and that’s the type we get all too much of these days. But I love Ben Zobrist variety.

      I think the Mets are doing a good thing with their middle infielders in the low minors by having them play multiple positions. Maybe Amed Rosario is firmly entrenched as a SS when Andres Gimenez gets to the majors. It would be great if Gimenez turned into our Zobrist – a guy who could play multiple positions and be good.

      • Jimmy P
        August 31, 2017 at 3:27 pm

        I think the confusion is over the word “refusal.” I don’t see the Mets “refusing” to play Wilmer in the OF so much as, well, not even remotely entertaining an obviously bad idea. That they tried Duda out there was a strong indicator this organization didn’t value outfield defense and didn’t understand it, either. Maybe they’ve learned something. Baby steps, baby steps.

        • TexasGusCC
          August 31, 2017 at 6:06 pm

          Didn’t the Mets try Murphy in left field when he first came up?

    • Chris F
      August 31, 2017 at 11:32 am

      “…the more I’ve come to appreciate the old-fashioned idea of a classic lineup, which was all about variety.”

      I couldnt agree more.

  2. Chris F
    August 31, 2017 at 11:29 am

    Its a lot of brain power and digital ink spilled on 2 bench guys. I cant help but feel that we are back to the old Stockholm Syndrome days. We are in love with our developed people no matter how good or poor they are. In reality, all I want is a good club that wins, no matter who is out there. Seems like a bit of a cult of personality interfering with winning.

    While we made the WS in 15, lets remember the team was pretty ho hum until Ces arrived. An inspired 5 weeks of Ces changed everything. Last year was ok, and this year has felt like most of the years in the Alderson regime: not getting the job done.

  3. TexasGusCC
    August 31, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    Let’s break this argument up a little bit, and apologies in advance if it gets too long-winded. To start with, we all want Mets wins no matter how they come. We differ on routes to get there. While we all want to support pitchers, we don’t seem to value helping them do their jobs better by playing defensively superior players. Lagares at #8, where he belongs, is not a problem. Flores at second doesn’t seem to be so bad, but the Mets have something else in mind and want to try him at third. Every corner of Metsville has Nimmo sucking, but he was ranked in the MLB top-100 last year when he won a PCL batting title (there are other players hitting in great hitting environments too, i.e. Albuquerque and Reno, Nimmo has done pretty well in the lead off spot since he started playing more often (but Bozo the Manager today has him cleanup), and maybe if he were to actually be less messed with – like today’s head scratching lineup position – he may be more comfortable and we all know what that means for a player. Cecchini is just not allowed to play, for whatever reason, although his entire history he has hit.

    There aren’t many people who wanted to “just get rid of” Bruce and Walker, and while many thought Granderson was toast, the same amount rightfully complained about Duda’s penchant for the “clutch walk” and the useless homerun. But these players all have something in common: They were free agents and the possibility of getting nothing at all for them was there.

    Now, what can we expect to get for them? If we use the JD Martinez trade as a comparison, where a low ranked minor league system gave up three prospects ranked in their teens and twenties, then these somewhat lesser players probably should get a little less. Add to the equation that the Coupons just refuse to part with a dollar in order to get a better prospect, and while no one is thrilled with the return, it’s hard to decipher what the optimum value was for these players.

    But while we all romanticize about the beauty of 5.7 runs per game, I ask, what was this great team’s record when it got broken up? Why is anyone missing these guys and we aren’t even interested in learning about our new guys?

    I have written that the homerun is a 3% result in plate appearances, and of our eye popping league leading homerun ratr at the time of these trades, 75% were solo shots. Where was the benefit of not having guys in the lineup that could bunch their hits? Add to it that the ball is caught more often than it used to be…

  4. Metsense
    August 31, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    If the Mets were to play Flores as a second baseman then they would have an offensive position advantage. National League second baseman average 739 OPS and Flores is a 790 OPS and he doesn’t have a negative defensive UZR at second base. Lagares, on the other hand, has a career 662 OPS which is 113 points below the average center fielder. His 7.1 UZR is good but not good enough to carry hit anemic bat. Flores could be a starter at second base. Lagares is too much of an offensive hole to be considered a starter. Nimmo “may” be average at this point and also appears to be a bench player. The Mets need to add an outfielder to their winter shopping list if they intend to compete for a playoff spot in 2018.

    • Chris F
      August 31, 2017 at 4:47 pm

      Unfortunately, the more Flores plays the more his holes are exposed. The defensive issues become more pronounced and the bat doesnt stick. I dont want him anywhere near starting at 2B.

  5. Eraff
    August 31, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Becoming an Every Day MLB Starter …it’s so tough to predict, much less achieve as a player. Nimmo, Lagares, Flores…these are not guys who arrived with 5 Tool Pedigree or reputations. At varying degrees, they are establishing their places as players—and they have the possiblility of improving…or not.

    I would not hand any of them a “Spot”—let the Players decide Who The Players are! Right now, Flo is a valuable guy at around 425 well chosen ab’s. Lagares is a 4th or 5th outfielder…Nimmo might be that as well—but there is no rationale that would have the Met’s to determine that they want to play the way Lagares Plays, style wise—he hasn’t shown He’s good enough to build a team approach around him;….ditto the others.

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