Juan Lagares was hampered by a thumb injury for much of the season, as he was limited to just 79 games and only started in 31 of those. Though he hit a career-worst .239 with an OPS of just .681, his worst month came directly after he returned from his first DL stint, when he hit just .160/.263/.300 in 50 at-bats in July, so it's fair to wonder if his swing was impacted by the thumb ailment. Either way, Lagares' struggles against right-handed pitching continued, as he hit just .217 with a .295 OBP against righties. Though he's been a bit better than that for his career, he was essentially viewed as a small-side platoon option coming into 2016 anyway, so his at-bats will likely be even more limited to just southpaws going forward. He is the only true center fielder on the Mets, but Curtis Granderson figures to masquerade in center field against righties in order to keep a potent offensive configuration in place.
Lagares exited Saturday's spring training game with a left oblique strain, Marc Carig of Newsday reports. John Mora came on to replace Lagares after the gold glover strained his oblique early in Saturday's contest. There's no word on the severity of his injury at this time, but the Mets will likely be cautious with him for the remainder of spring training with Opening Day quickly approaching.
Lagares (back) will start in center field and bat ninth in the order in Tuesday's Grapefruit League game against the Astros, Matt Ehalt of The Record reports. Lagares hasn't played since Friday while battling back stiffness, but the Mets never viewed it as a major concern. The 27-year-old remains the best defensive outfielder on the Mets roster, but he won't have a path to regular at-bats while all of Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce are healthy.
Lagares did not travel with the team Sunday due to back stiffness, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Lagares had been struggling at the plate prior to this blip in the radar, as he only managed four hits in 24 at-bats so far this spring. It's unclear how severe this ailment is, but that should become clearer once he's examined by team doctors in the next day or so.
Lagares went 2-for-3 with a run and a stolen base in Friday's split-squad game against the Braves. He's off to a slow start this spring, hitting .167 (4-for-24), but Lagares' spot as the Mets' fourth outfielder is secure due to his excellent glove. How much playing time he gets in 2017 will depend more on the health of other players on the roster than his own performance, but he will offer a bit of speed when he does manage to draw into the starting lineup.
Lagares got his first in-game action Friday after suffering a sprained shoulder back in December. Lagares was expected to be ready for spring training, and his participation in the Mets' Grape League opener Friday would seem to indicate that there have been no setbacks. The 27-year-old led off the game by walking in his first at-bat before eventually coming around to score. This spring, he'll be hoping to solidify a backup role in New York's outfield.