While the Phillies, Yankees and Red Sox can boast talent of their acquired outfield mashers, the Mets are reaping the benefits of a home-grown talent. Michael Conforto debuted in 2015 and is now in his age 26 season, which also known as his prime. Profiled as a pure hitter from his time in college and through his brief stint in the minor leagues, Conforto has not disappointed in that regard as a major leaguer – he owns a .253/.352/.483 slash line for his career. A look back at his draft scouting report yields the following results:
- Smooth swing, plus bat speed, plus plate discipline
- Poor defensive outfielder, most likely relegated to left field due to his average arm
- Slow of foot
- Mentioned in the same cyber breath as Kyle Schwarber, Casey Gillaspie and A.J. Reed
- Projected MLB Comparison of Josh Willingham
At first, one could be offended on behalf of the Mets outfielder because of that comparison, however a look through the numbers show that Willingham’s production would be a respectable floor for Conforto’s career. With a career 19 fWAR, the former outfielder has very similar career marks to Conforto with respect to walk and strikeout rates, batting average, on base and slugging percentage. Obviously, Met fans would prefer the trajectory that Conforto is currently tracking on, which would outperform Willingham handsomely. Improvements across major hitting categories year over year, becoming one of the National Leagues more formidable athletes, is an encouraging sign that the best is yet to come for Conforto.
A wrist injury in 2016 and dislocated shoulder towards the end of 2017 derailed Conforto’s momentum, however last year’s second half was certainly a positive swing which has carried over into the 2019 season. Through 100 plate appearances, Conforto is setting career bests with a 15% walk rate, 20% strikeout rate, and .305 ISO all while his batted ball profile remains relatively the same. Conforto could be benefiting from the support behind him in Wilson Ramos and Jeff McNeil, however his hitting prowess is no secret and should not be discounted.
What’s interesting is that 34 of his plate appearances this year have come against the shift in which Conforto has struck out or walked a total of zero times according to Fangraphs. Meanwhile, his batting average improves 119 points to .412 in these situations, with eight singles and six doubles. This suggests that he is changing his approach at the plate by simply trying to make solid contact. Conforto is on his way to a second All-Star appearance, as he continues to blossom in front of our eyes.
When healthy, Conforto has proven that he can be a top 20 hitter in the major leagues in terms of OPS; coupled with a top ten hitter (see: Pete Alonso), the Mets are a piece or two away from a formidable offense that can hang with the best of them. Conforto will be a free agent in 2022 and as a client of Scott Boras he will undoubtedly strike a rich deal. The Mets would be smart to ink a new contract at some point before 2022, thereby teaming Conforto up with Jacob deGrom and Pete Alonso as an All-Star caliber core for years to come.