Position Battle: Will Keon Broxton or Juan Lagares Rise In NY?

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It wasn’t a blockbuster move by the Mets, but when they sent three prospects to Milwaukee in exchange for OF Keon Broxton they took a step towards filling their need in centerfield.  Does the acquisition bar them from going after someone like A.J. Pollock?  Absolutely not, as Broxton has the ability to play all three outfield spots and could operate as the fourth/fifth outfielder while providing depth behind the pair of left-handed hitting corner outfielders (Michael Conforto/Brandon Nimmo).

At the same time, at least on the surface it appears that the team is prepared to move forward with Broxton and Juan Lagares providing a strong defensive platoon in centerfield while gambling on some offensive upside.  From a fantasy perspective the question is going to be if either can hit enough to force us to pay attention?  Let’s take a look:

Keon Broxton
It’s very clear what the issue for Broxton is, and that’s a complete inability to make consistent contact at any level.  It’s easy to forget that he had a 20 HR/21 SB campaign over 463 PA in 2017 (and over 798 career PA has 33 HR and 50 SB) because it came courtesy of a .220 AVG.  Overall he owns a 36.6% strikeout rate, courtesy of a 16.6% SwStr%.  The bulk of the plate appearances came in 2017, where he struggled against all types of pitches (Whiff%):

  • Hard – 16.90%
  • Breaking – 19.76%
  • Offspeed – 29.80%

If he had been showing signs in the minor leagues it would be easy to expect a turnaround, but an 18.5% mark at Triple-A in ’18 backs up the miserable marks.  He will turn 29-years old in May and does have a solid eye, with a 25.3% O-Swing%, but at this stage expecting a sudden change would seem to be misguided.

If he did figure it out a monster season could lay before him, given the opportunity and skills behind it (including a 37.9% Hard% and 25.5% Oppo%).  That makes him worth the flier at the end of your draft, just in case a new voice helps him make the adjustment, but it’s not something you can sincerely expect.

Juan Lagares
The biggest issue for Lagares has been an inability to stay on the field, with 272 PA or fewer in each of the past three seasons.  That said he also lacks true offensive upside, with 20 HR and 40 SB over 1,834 PA.  A .260 hitter, while he does make contact (8.9%) and is willing to use the entire field (29.9% Oppo%) these marks basically rob him of any chance at a strong average:

  • O-Swing% – 34.7%
  • Hard% – 27.3%

So he doesn’t stay within the strike zone (4.6% career walk rate) and when he does make contact it is relatively weak.  Without power (49.6% groundball rate, 4.7% career HR/FB) or elite speed, what is there to bank on?

Lagares is a defensive first player, and even if he’s in the lineup it’s hard to get excited about him.

Conclusion
If the Mets truly do enter the season with Broxton and Lagares sharing centerfield it would appear that they are taking a defense first approach.  That said there’s one player with offensive upside, and considering Broxton is also a strong defender it’s far more likely that he emerges and grabs hold of the job.  Obviously there’s still plenty of time left for further maneuvering and he is hardly a guarantee, but there’s enough potential to roll the dice and hope for the best.  As for Lagares?  He’s easily ignored.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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