Mets Spotlight: The Cautionary Tale Of Michale Conforto

There’s a lot of things the Mets do wrong. In fact, it’s kind of hard to figure out what they do right. Assembling the pitching talent they had was probably right, except everything went wrong with it the past two years. And now one wonders where they are with that, which used to be the strength of the team.

You could argue the dumbest thing the Mets did heading into this season is how they constructed their outfield. They keep insisting on keeping Yoenis Cespedes around, to go with Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson. So that’s basically three aging left-fielders that have to be spread around the entire outfield. And of course, as is his way, Cespedes got hurt.

Which actually ended up being a good thing, because it got Michael Conforto into the lineup.

Conforto was/is the best positional prospect in the Mets system for a while now. And you’ll recall in 2015 he came up for 53 games and went Bam-Bam on the NL and specifically Cubs in the NLCS. Conforto only had 133 games in the minors before arriving in Queens, but he had pulverized every level. Sound like anyone you know?

And then 2016 hit, and Conforto starting seeing a bevy of fastballs high in the zone and above it. And he kept swinging. And things did not go well when he did. And when he wasn’t getting those they were being the frontline for sliders in the dirt. Sound like anyone you know?

Conforto was simply terrible for most of last season, and even got himself sent back to Las Vegas for a portion of the season, leading to the Mets to acquire Jay Bruce when that’s not really what they needed at all. Conforto also wasn’t helped by being jerked around by the Mets, not playing every day as soon as things went south and being moved around the outfield when he’d really only played left in the minors. But again, that’s where basically all three of the other outfielders need to go on the Mets.

Conforto started to recover last September when the Mets finally left him alone to let him play every day. His walk-rate jumped to a stellar 15% and his strikeouts dropped by a third as well. His power came back for a .800+ OPS in the month.

That momentum has carried over into this season, where Conforto is tickling a .600 slugging-percentage, is laying off everything on top of the zone, and has already been worth 2.5 WAR. He has forced Terry Collins to rotate Cespedes, now that he’s healthy, and Granderson because he can’t lose Conforto’s bat. Or being the only decent glove they can manage beyond the infield.

But still, Cespedes is getting a lot of money, Bruce and Granderson are out of contract after this season, so they don’t really owe them anything.

The Mets might have gotten this Conforto earlier had they not starting tinkering last year and then sent him to the minors. This is probably the thinking it running Schwarber out there every day, because once you start demoting and threatening, things tend to get worse. And even with all of that, the Mets have a top-10 NL player on their hands now so far this year.

All good things to those who wait…

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