Outfielder Michael Conforto under performed in the first half of 2018 for the Mets, followed by a very good second half. Which Conforto can we expect in 2019, the bad hitter of the first half or the sweet-swinging slugger of the second half?
Looking at his first half through the FanGraphs splits tool, we see he posted a .216/.344/.366 slash line, pretty dreadful. However he rebounded smartly for the second half with marks of .273/.356/.539. Put the two halves together and his slash line for the season was .243/.350/.448. To a certain extent in 2018, when Conforto played well, the team played well, and vice-versa when he did not play well. The Mets second half record was considerably better than their first half record. Also Conforto’s worst month was June with a .198 BA, and the Mets won only five games that month in their worst month of the season.
Conforto was the Mets’ first round draft selection in 2014, and he did not spend much time in the minors. He was called up to the big club in 2015, just in time to help the Mets in their successful pennant drive. He regressed some in 2016, even spending some time at the triple A level.
Conforto really seemed to come into his own in 2017 with a .279/.384/.555 slash line, with 27 homers. However that season was cut short when he suffered a nasty shoulder injury in August while swinging and missing a pitch. That injury caused him to play in only 109 games that year.
Several reports have indicated that his shoulder may not have been totally healed when he returned to action in 2018, probably playing a big part in his miserable start. However, since he stepped it up in the second half, it is reasonable to assume that the shoulder is close to normal or perhaps fully healed. That would certainly be a very encouraging sign.
With Yoenis Cespedes expected to be on the shelf for half or even more of the 2019 season, the Mets will be counting on Conforto to be the main power hitter in the lineup. Had Conforto not been hurt in 2017, he likely would have ended the year with a home run total in the upper 30s or maybe even 40 dingers, and hopefully that is what we see in 2019.
Conforto has good discipline at the plate, thus his good OBP figures. He is not a one dimensional pull hitter, he can go with the pitch and he is strong enough to hit homers to the opposite field. He fits well into the number three slot in the batting order, a spot made for a high OBP/SLG batter. Conforto turns 26 in 2019, which means he is heading into the normal peak years of production for ballplayers.
The Mets were run-challenged in 2018, when the team scored 676 runs, finishing 12th out of the 15 teams in the NL. A full season of the good Conforto would do a lot to upgrade the offense for 2019.