As the New York Mets prepare for a four game series in Denver against the Rockies they will get back an important piece in their lineup. Juan Lagares will return from the DL. Before he strained his hamstring Lagares was arguably the Mets’ hottest hitter hitting .314 with a home run and seven RBI as well as playing his typical outstanding defense. He looks to add even more firepower to a team that has won 10 of its last 14 games and sits four games over .500.
Lagares’s activation will lead to an outfield platoon situation between Eric Young Jr., Curtis Granderson, Chris Young and Lagares. Manager Terry Collins has said that he already talked to the other three members of the platoon and assured them that the same player will not sit for two games in a row.
If Lagares is 100% healthy look for him to get most of the starts in centerfield. Chris Young has struggled tracking balls in center at times this season and Lagares is certainly an upgrade defensively. Young will likely move to left field, which is where he was brought in to play, with Granderson in right most of the time. Eric Young Jr. will likely see time at both corner spots when he plays and the ageless Bobby Abreu also may earn a few starts in right field.
The announcement of a full platoon is interesting given the stance before the season started that much of the platooning would occur in left field. It seems that Collins may be beginning to lose faith in Granderson and may sit him against tough lefties until he gets his offense back on track.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis will likely be the roster casualty to make room for Lagares. Niewenhuis has seen his playing time go down with the arrival of Abreu as the left-handed bat off the bench.
Lagares is in the starting lineup and batting leadoff Thursday in Denver. He will retake his position in centerfield while moving Chris Young to left with Granderson in right. Eric Young Jr. will be on the bench as the 4th outfielder and possible late-game pinch-hitter or pinch-runner.
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Lagares’s return should also help Mets pitching. A big reason for the early success of the team has been the starting pitching. With Lagares patrolling center field, the pitching stands to perform even better. The rotation is by no means filled with pitcher who will strike out double digit batters every game. Hitters are going to put the ball in play, but with Lagares back, the likelihood of those hits becoming outs is much greater.
If Collins is able to successfully manage the outfield platoon and Lagares returns to the form he had before he got hurt, the Mets have a real chance to perform even better than they have been. Improving on a 15 win April looks likely if the team can remain healthy and improve offensive production. Juan Lagares’s return is steps in the right direction for both of those aspects.