The Miami Marlins had an outfield dilemma that was going to be difficult to solve. The team's plan on solving it initially was to find playing time for one of its hottest players at another position: the club was planning on moving longtime infielder Chris Coghlan to play third base. This would have been an ideal situation for the Marlins, as Coghlan was an infielder in the minors and in college and would get a chance to return to the position.
Unfortunately, this will not get to happen, as the Marlins placed Coghlan on the disabled list with "right calf nerve irritation." This is the first time he has had to go on the disabled list proper since 2011, when he suffered left knee inflammation following his meniscus tear surgery.
This injury could not have come at a worst time for Coghlan, as he had finally gained some headway with a strong month of May. Coghlan hit a spectacular .338/.379/.525 since the start of May, and while much of that was on the back of good luck and extra line drives that cannot necessarily be expected to continue, it was a positive start for the former Rookie of the Year. The Marlins had the opportunity to give him extended playing time, even if it was unfortunately at the expense of Justin Ruggiano.
The more disappointing part of the loss of Coghlan, however, is that the Marlins will once again be unable to test him out in the infield as planned. The Marlins had spent too many seasons reluctant to run Coghlan in an infield spot, instead turning to players like Donovan Solano and signing free agent stopgaps like Placido Polanco. This ext week, the Fish were planning on trying Coghlan at the position for the first time since his minor league and college days. With the way he was hitting, it would have been nice to see him get a chance to crack the starting lineup in the infield, especially with the struggles of Polanco at third base.
Instead Coghlan will now miss at least two weeks with potentially a nerve injury in his right leg, as he is complaining that his legs are not moving properly. Apparently, Coghlan has been hurt for the past three weeks and only now was unable to work through the injury. It is amazing to see Coghlan playing as well as he did in the past three weeks despite the injury.
However, the injury almost certainly hampered him on the defensive side of the field, and that may be the most beneficial part of this unfortunate injury. Coghlan had been taking up significant playing time in center field thanks to his hot streak, It is a very small sample of defensive play, but Coghlan has struggled on defense this year, and that continues the trend of his poor play out in center field. For his career, he has played 809 1/3 innings in center field and UZR has rated him as nine runs below average in that time period, translating to a 15-run deficit over a full season of play.
Coghlan was unlikely to play much center field when Giancarlo Stanton eventually returned from injury and Christian Yelich eventually received his promotion, but moving him out of the outfield now and replacing him with the deposed and struggling Ruggiano could save a run or two for the time being. Ruggiano is now the only player on the current roster who can reliably play center field, meaning that he will probably receive the lion's share of playing time even after Stanton returns.
Coghlan's injury should also not affect the Marlins' plans to promote Yelich, thankfully. Currently, Yelich is hitting a robust .262/.342/.518 (.383 wOBA), but he has struggled with strikeouts in his 187 plate appearances thus far. He has struck out in a career-high 25.1 percent of plate appearances thus far, and at this rate, he could probably use some more time in the minors before being ready for a major league spot. With Ruggiano manning center, the Marlins can be patient even without Coghlan around for a little while.
Chris Coghlan should get a chance at third base when he comes back, and the hope is that whatever mojo or momentum he had will continue once he returns. As much flak as I have given Coghlan over the years, he is a significantly more interesting third base option at this point than Placido Polanco or anyone else the Marlins can muster there.