Well, they can, but they won't. Lagares will make the team, and even if he's on the bench on Opening Day -- a tactic I disagree with, but let's go with it for now -- he should receive some serious playing time on a regular basis.
The outfield competition isn't as black and white as "Young will win" or "Lagares will win." In reality, there are plenty of at-bats and defensive innings to go around.
Though the Mets signed Chris Young to a $7.25 million contract this winter, that does not make him an everyday player by default. There will be days when the Mets bench him against tough right-handed pitchers, which will serve two purposes. Not only will the Mets have Lagares' glove in the outfield in those instances, they will be able to use Chris Young as a pinch-hitter when opposing managers bring in their lefty specialists to face Ike Davis or Curtis Granderson.
Granderson also could see regular off-days against left-handed pitching. Though the Mets certainly won't be platooning their $60 million investment, Granderson is 33 years old and will require at least semi-regular days off. Scheduling them when, say, Cliff Lee is pitching would create additional opportunities for Lagares and Eric Young to start at the same time.
Then there will be days when the Mets simply start Lagares over Eric Young. This isn't a competition that will end when Spring Training does. I suspect manager Terry Collins will go with the hot hand throughout the early part of this season until either player establishes himself as too productive to bench.
I realize this is ridiculous, but hey, it seems to be the recent history with Mets injuries. If, by some strange circumstance, Davis' sore calves and Lucas Duda's strained left hamstring aren't ready to go come April, who would be at first? Daniel Murphy, with Wilmer Flores filling in at second?
-- Derek C., Lewisville, N.C.
If you had told me three weeks ago that Davis and Duda would both still be injured on March 19, I would have considered that ridiculous as well. So although it's highly unlikely that neither will be ready to go by March 31, the recent round of cuts gave a glimpse into what Collins recently called "Plan C."
With all due respect to Eric Campbell, who is having a fine spring and has drawn praise from Collins, Zach Lutz is also enjoying an excellent spring, boasts significant experience at first base and -- most important -- is already on the 40-man roster. Because Lutz and Josh Satin are both right-handed, lingering injuries to Davis and Duda would likely push Satin into the lineup and allow Lutz to make the Opening Day bench.
Although shifting Murphy to first base and plugging Eric Young in at second may create a more productive lineup, I can't believe the Mets would do something so drastic for a short-term fix. If for some reason both Davis and Duda were sidelined long-term, that might become more plausible. But right now, both players are merely day to day.
What's up with Steven Matz? He was protected from the Rule 5 Draft, and he was highly regarded a few years ago. Any projected timeline for when he may be in the Majors?
-- Brian J., Whitestone, N.Y.
I regret not having more of an opportunity this spring to write about Matz, who really impressed Mets officials with his performance. Health remains the big issue with him; no one is questioning the quality of his stuff.
Matz will open this season at Class A St. Lucie, and the Mets could choose to push him given his relatively advanced age (23 in May). If he ends up at Double-A Binghamton by August, that would put him on track for a potential debut in the second half of 2015. But it's an admittedly aggressive timeline, meaning 2016 is perhaps a bit more realistic.
When we traded R.A. Dickey, everyone was so excited about Noah Syndergaard and Travis d'Arnaud -- understandably -- but I had read that Wuilmer Becerra was no slouch. I haven't read much about him since. How is he doing? What is he looking like in the future?
-- Brian J., Whitestone, N.Y.
Why not a second question from Brian J. this week? Becerra is only 19 years old and has never played above Rookie ball, so it's way too soon to draw judgments. But he really struggled in the Gulf Coast League last season, batting .243 with a .646 OPS. Unless those numbers improve drastically this summer, Becerra won't be on prospect radars anytime soon.
Before they got to the big leagues, who was the best prospect: Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler or Syndergaard?
-- Boruch K., Queens, N.Y.
Prospect rankings can be rather subjective, but they're the only real tool we have to compare young players in a general sense. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo ranked Harvey 38th in baseball in 2012, before his rookie season. A year later, Wheeler peaked on Mayo's rankings at eighth overall. And this spring, Syndergaard clocked in at 11th.
But these days, nearly every executive in baseball would take a healthy Harvey over either of his teammates. It doesn't take much for things to change drastically.