Baseball

Mets Spotlight: Has Michael Conforto Finally Survived The Mets?

It seems a long while ago that Michael Conforto was bursting on the scene in 2015. While at the time the Mets had already rolled out Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz in their rotation, Conforto was the first shot in a homegrown lineup to match the rotation. Conforto lit up the National League for the last two months of the season, with a .509 slugging, 133 wRC+, and a .359 wOBA and was along for the ride to the World Series that year. After trading for Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets looked to have their outfield set for a bit, at least in the corners.

But never doubt the Mets ability to be the Mets.

Conforto struggled in his first full go-around in the majors, as players tend to do. But mostly it was due to some rotten luck, and Conforto was still was getting on base through walks, hitting the ball pretty damn hard, he just couldn’t get anything to fall. It earned him a brief demotion back to Triple-A, which opened up space for the Mets to acquire…Jay Bruce? Yep, that’s right. The Mets ended that season with an outfield of Curtis Granderson, Cespedes in center (where his graham cracker ligaments were always going to do really well), and Bruce in right, making an excellent impression of the old people and their walkers doing their laps around the mall. Needless to say the looks on the Mets pitchers’ faces as line drives and fly balls kept falling into open spaces while that trio wheezed and gagged over to them would have been Websters-worthy of “bemused.”

Again, never doubt the Mets ability to be the Mets, because they re-signed Bruce and then tried to cram Conforto in center, where he had never really played. And trying to cover for Bruce and Cespedes, when he wasn’t disintegrating, or whatever Granderson had left, wasn’t exactly the place to learn the position. Conforto did hit the shit out of the baseball though, with a 147 wRC+ as he was shuffled around and to the bench.

The Mets seemingly got the message last year, though Cespedes showing up in the morgue might have helped with that. After brief flirtations with Austin Jackson and Jose Bautista, the proverbial poking dead bodies with a stick, the Mets allowed Conforto to play left every day and Brandon Nimmo to play center.

They’ve moved Conforto over to right this season, and he’s responding with one of his best offensive season. His walk-rate is a career-high, and his slugging and other numbers are around his ’16 level. Conforto’s line-drive heavy ways are back from a year hiatus as well.

The difference appears to be Conforto’s production on slower pitches. He’s always been a “Can Pull A Bullet” guy, but struggled with change-ups and curves. This year he’s hitting those at a .250 and .267 clips, which are way above his career norms. That helps buttress his usual fireworks on the hard stuff (.289 and .579 slugging).

Even better for Conforto is he no longer has to carry this lineup after everyone gets hurt. Pete Alonso is odds on to win the NL Rookie Of The Year with his homer-a-day policy. That doesn’t mean the Mets haven’t totally been the Mets, as their trade for Robinson Cano is looking like another piece of Queens genius as Cano has caught Cespedes ligaments and health and hasn’t been any good when he has been around. And thanks to that lineup and some injuries in the rotation the Mets haven’t been able to vault themselves into the NL East discussion, which the Braves look like they might turn moot soon anyway.

Still, at least Conforto didn’t get completely buried by Mets-iness. It’s killed many before him.

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