Center fielder Juan Lagares has been diagnosed with a left oblique strain after exiting the game in the third inning against the Braves today. With his status for Opening Day now in doubt, the Mets have some interesting decisions to make regarding their bench.
Ticketed for a second season as the Mets’ fourth outfielder and late-inning defensive replacement, Lagares was the only true center fielder expected to make the Opening Day roster. Curtis Granderson is expected to start the season in center, though he is considered more of a corner outfielder at this point.
Without Lagares, it is possible that Brandon Nimmo could slot into that role, although Nimmo is dealing with a right hamstring sprain of his own. Anthony DiComo at MLB.com speculates that the injury may open up a bench spot for Michael Conforto, but most expected him to start the season playing every day at Triple-A Las Vegas. On top of this, both Conforto and Nimmo would be imperfect replacements for Lagares, as both of them possess questionable defensive ability in center.
For what it’s worth, Lagares himself does not consider the injury terribly serious. But should it prevent him from starting the season on the big league roster, the Mets will have some tough questions to answer as they put together the team that will take the field against the Atlanta Braves on April 3.