Michael Conforto, OF
Player Data: Age: 24 B/T: L/R
2018 Salary: Pre-arbitration eligible
2017 Stats: .279/.384/.555, 27 HR, 68 RBI, 20 2B, 113 SO, 57 BB, 373 AB, 3.6 bWAR
It seems fitting that one of the only true bright spots for the 2017 Mets team was a guy who wasn’t even originally penciled in to be part of the 25-man Opening Day roster.
Michael Conforto was seemingly ticketed to begin his season with Triple-A Las Vegas, to receive regular at-bats away from the crowded major league outfield consisting of Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, and Juan Lagares. Conforto’s fortune changed when a late spring oblique injury befell Lagares, making Conforto the backup centerfielder to Granderson.
Conforto, 24, began this season as a spot starter and pinch-hitter before Yoenis Cespedes went down with a leg injury, missing over a month of the season from April 28th to June 10th.
The 24-year-old 1st Round pick did not waste his opportunity.
In May, Conforto led all Mets hitters in home runs (7), RBI (21), BB (18), OBP (.426), SLG (.627), and OPS (1.054). While Conforto struggled in the month of June, posting a .700 OPS with just five extra-base hits, he still got on base at a solid .383 clip.
Conforto was the Mets lone All-Star representative this season, and his stats backed him up. By the break, Conforto had the 4th best wRC+ (148) and sixth best OPS (.945) among all outfielders, trailing only Aaron Judge, George Springer, and Bryce Harper. His .403 OBP was 8th best among all qualified hitters in the game.
Entering the All Star Game in the 6th inning, Conforto looped a single to left in the 7th off Toronto Blue Jays’ closer, Roberto Osuna, while striking out in the 9th with the winning run on third for the National League.
Conforto played all three outfield spots this year, with the majority in left (415.2 innings) and center field (328.2 innings). While the advanced metrics appear to view Conforto as average to below average in his outfield play (0 DRS in LF, -4 DRS in CF), however, he showcased a strong arm, with five outfield assists on the year, behind Lagares (7) and Cespedes (6).
When looking at outfielders with a minimum of 800 innings in the field, Conforto ranks 6th in ARM (which measures the amount of runs above average an outfielder saves with their arm by preventing runners from advancing) with a 4.1. He showcased athleticism and a sheer desire to play wherever the team asked him during the year.
As the disappointing season crept deeper into the summer months, ravaged by an onslaught of injuries and under-performance, Conforto gave fans a continuing reason to watch and be excited for the future.
Then, August 24th came.
With fans holding their collective breath each time a player gave any indication of an apparent injury, Conforto’s follow-through on a Robbie Ray 94-mile-per-hour fastball in the fifth against the Arizona Diamondbacks put the proverbial nail in the coffin on this season. The All-Star dislocated his left shoulder, and an MRI revealed he had tore his posterior capsule in his left shoulder.
Conforto underwent shoulder surgery on September 6th, and is expected to need six months to recover before he can begin baseball activities. The unfortunate news means Conforto might not be ready for Opening Day, leaving yet more questions for the team to solve this offseason.
Conforto finished the 2017 season with a line of .279/.384/.555, with 27 home runs, 68 RBI, and 57 walks. Among Mets with a minimum of 200 plate appearances, Conforto led in wOBA (.392), wRC+ (146), OPS (.939), and Win Probability Added (3.05).
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This remains to be seen. A lot will depend on how Conforto responds to the surgery and rehab over the winter. It’s possible we won’t see Conforto back in the lineup until May or even June if the consensus is right that he won’t begin baseball activities until sometime in March.
Once healthy, I fully expect Conforto to continue forging a path as one of the best young hitters in baseball. The fact that he was hitting to all fields at a more consistent rate in 2017, posting career highs in balls hit to center (from 32.6 % in 2016 to 39.7 in 2017) and to the opposite field (24.8 % in 2016 to 27.9 % in 2017) demonstrates the continued progression from the young slugger.