Another injury has the Arizona Diamondbacks in scramble mode heading for Opening Day as outfielder Jordan Luplow suffered an oblique injury against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday. Luplow’s injury occurred while swinging the bat in the 7th inning, although he would finish the plate appearance with a walk and lifted for a pinch runner. Given it was Spring Training, it wasn’t a move that anyone would pay attention to. Instead we find out in a couple days that Luplow suffered a Grade 1 oblique strain, an injury that has a 4-6 week recovery time, and is likely to open the season on the injured list.
The Diamondbacks acquired Luplow from the Tampa Bay Rays as a corner outfielder who mash left-handed pitching. The team will be trying to figure out where to recover that lost production, although it’s unlikely they’ll find that in the outfield. Only one other outfielder on the 40-man roster bats right-handed, Stuart Fairchild, so the injury puts the team in a really bad roster bind. Instead of being able to hide David Peralta against some of the tougher left-handed pitchers, Peralta will most certainly have to take his lumps against them.
Looking at the team’s current outfield situation, Peralta and Smith are likely to start in the corners while some combination of Daulton Varsho and Jake McCarthy try to hold down center. Alek Thomas is also a candidate to get some time, but I prefer he gets everyday at-bats somewhere even if it means sending him back to Reno. Fairchild is the only right-handed hitting option, although he was optioned to AAA last week. The team can recall him to replace an injured player, but I’m not sure if he’d be ready to start the season on the active roster with the amount of reps he’s gotten in Spring Training.
Another option would include using Cooper Hummel, a switch hitter who could fill at a corner spot. Hummel could be the player who benefits the most, as this opens up a clearer path for him to get playing time in the outfield. The outfield versatility may the difference when the team needs to make decisions for their 28-man roster and then shrinking down to 26 later in the year. The team would be picking between him and Jose Herrera for the 3rd catcher spot after Carson Kelly and Varsho.
Another question that could affect the team is how they could try to build their lineup against lefties without Luplow. Outside of recalling Fairchild or going with Hummel, there are options they could consider at other positions. Matt Davidson is a career .262/.339/.472 hitter (118 wRC+) against lefties, so he could get in the lineup as the designated hitter or give Josh Rojas a blow at third base one game a week. While Davidson doesn’t play outfield, it would allow the team to create a more potent lineup against LHP. We’ll see what moves that Mike Hazen makes to try to bridge this gap for the next six weeks.