The hamstring injury to Juan Lagares is unfortunate on so many levels. While the Spring was filled with much debate on how much playing time Lagares would see, it was clear he had become the team’s everyday centerfielder just two weeks into the season. With Lagares, the argument has always been that he is a defensive gem-maker and anything you get from the bat is gravy. But in the first 13 games, Lagares leads the team in AVG, OBP, SLG and OPS amongst Mets qualifiers. And if you add non-qualfiers, only Lucas Duda presents a reasonable argument on the power numbers. Let that sink in again. That Lagares is leading the team offensively is probably more of a statement on the rest of the Mets roster, but an .815 OPS with the kind of defense Lagares brings to the table has been exciting to see nonetheless.
Lagares has been one of the few bright spots in the early season for the Mets, and losing him for any stretch of time can certainly hurt. But let’s look at the rest of the team. The offense has been a disaster. As a team, the Mets are dead last in the NL in most major hitting categories. Their strikeout numbers will smash the MLB record if it continues at this pace. And there has certainly been little contribution from their biggest free agent acquisition of the offseason, as Curtis Granderson has really struggled.
Yet through this offensive ineptitude, the Mets are on the precipice of being a .500 club. If Lagares were to miss significant playing time, it could begin a nose-dive similar to last season that ended all Mets hopes before the first of June. But perhaps not. Chris Young can return on Friday and so far, no one can figure out how to get him out in his rehab stint in Vegas. Kirk Nieuwenhuis has also started the season hot in Vegas, with 2 HRs and a .810 OPS. Maybe they don’t possess Lagares’ glove (heck, who does?), but these guys bring significant defensive creds to the outfield.
Then what happens when David Wright starts hitting like David Wright? Travis d’Arnaud has shown some signs of breaking out of his early season fog. And then there is Granderson. Surely, there has to be more from our clean-up hitter than what we have seen to date?
I am probably more bummed for Lagares as a player. He has certainly earned the right to play everyday and it stinks that he will almost certainly miss a chunk of time. Hamstrings don’t heal quickly and there is always a risk of re-injury if the rehab is rushed. But the fact is Lagares pretty much carried this team at the plate for the first two weeks of this season. Now it is time for the players that are supposed to carry us to step up. That means you David Wright. That means you Curtis Granderson. And if Chris Young can add something at the plate, I anticipate we’ll still be a .500 team when Lagares returns.