For baseball professionals and amateurs across the globe, the dream is to reach the major leagues, and every single year, there are dreams fulfilled that belong to players I’ve never heard of before. Like most baseball writers, I know something about most players, but there are a lot of players, and I have only so many brains. Some months ago I didn’t know a thing about Scott Rice. Scott Rice is the major-league leader in appearances, for pitchers. Usually, the players I don’t know are relievers, but every so often they’re utility infielders or versatile outfielders. Generally, they tend to be relatively unremarkable. I’m supposed to know the guys with big talent. Generally, I don’t expect the players I don’t know to go on to rank among the league’s best at something.
It took me a little while to recognize the name “Juan Lagares.” I’d never heard of Lagares when he started getting playing time with the Mets, and I was left unimpressed by a glance at his statistical track record. But, at the plate, Lagares has gotten better, and at the plate isn’t where Lagares is at his most interesting. See, Lagares has been his most remarkable defensively. Just Wednesday, he robbed the Braves of at least one run with a diving catch at a sinking liner. And while Lagares has demonstrated his ability to move around the outfield, range hasn’t even been his strength. His range has been good, but his arm has been outstanding. Juan Lagares’ arm has put him on a leaderboard.
Read the rest of this entry »