The will they, won’t they drama has come to an end. The New York Mets placed Michael Cuddyer on the disabled list and called up coveted offensive prospect Michael Conforto from Double-A Binghamton.
The move will certainly stir some debate. The fans have wanted Conforto to get the call for some weeks now, but as everyone knows, the fans don’t run the team. Sandy Alderson and the upper management seemed to make it clear earlier last week that Conforto wasn’t an option and they were going to let him further develop. Apparently that has changed.
Conforto was the Mets 10th overall pick in last year’s draft. He absolutely destroyed the New York/ Penn League pitching in his 2014 half season debut. He slashed .331/.403/.448 with three home runs and 19 RBI while registering a wRC+ of 153 (remember, 100 is average!) in 163 at bats.
The 22-year old zipped through High-A where he did well, but was actually performing better — quite arguably his best of his short professional career — at Double-A Binghamton. He was slashing .312/.396/.503 with five home runs in 173 at bats. His walk rate was at his career best of 11.7-percent, although so was his strikeout rate of 17.8-percent. He is the reigning Eastern League Player of the Week.
Several fear that Conforto is not ready for the big leagues with only 520 career at bats, zero of which have come at Triple-A. But here is something to think about:
Kris Bryant — 272 AAA at bats
Carlos Correa — 98 AAA at bats
Kyle Schwarber — 0 AAA at bats (before first promotion)
Joey Gallo — 0 AAA at bats (before first call up)
Miguel Sano — 0 AAA at bats
Addison Russell — 57 AAA at bats
This 23 and under flock is seemingly of a different breed. While Gallo didn’t stick, everyone else has. Furthermore, those above examples are performing well, and there are several others that weren’t even mentioned.
Conforto possesses the same natural ability of those that were promoted before him. In his three seasons at Oregon State, where he was one of the most feared hitters in the land, he never had an OBP less than .437. Unlike most power hitters, which many view Conforto as, he has an advanced feel for the strike zone and isn’t afraid to draw a walk (56 walks in 589 career plate appearances for a 10.5-percent walk rate).
Conforto has a quick, left handed swing with a little bit of an upper cut to it, which helps pack some punch. His ability to hit for average was questioned earlier this season, but the fact that he improved his batting average from .283 in High-A to .312 in Double-A should comfort critics and show that he could settle in as a nice .300 hitter.
Conforto is quick in left field and has a nice arm, but he isn’t the flashiest in the fielding department. Despite needing some work with the glove, his all around game earned him a preseason grade of B from John Sickels, as the Mets seventh overall prospect. That grade would certainly be higher next year, would he have finished 2015 as a Minor Leaguer.
It’s no secret that the Mets offense is struggling. They are dead last in the MLB in both batting average and slugging percentage, and were completely dominated by Clayton Kershaw Thursday night. That same night, their cleanup hitter and five-hole hitter were batting under .200 on the season, and I have been told that that is not good.
The promotion of Conforto gives the Mets more options at the deadline. They can shift their focus from replacing an aging and breaking down outfield, and look for infield help. Ben Zobrist has been high amongst the rumor list and would provide instant help to that struggling offense as a player who can play both infield and outfield if needed. It also makes Brandon Nimmo expendable and allows the Mets to explore trade options without having to sacrifice their prized pitching prospects.
Will Conforto succeed and make an immediate impact? That’s for you readers to debate and for time to tell. One thing is certainly clear. The Conforto Era has begun, and the Mets offense can not possibly be any worse from it.