clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The View from Behind the Backstop: Michael Conforto

New, 36 comments

After conquering the Florida State League, the Mets' 2014 first-round pick has been on fire in the Eastern League. How soon can he help the major league team?

Chris McShane

Michael Conforto
OF, Binghamton Mets (AA)
Height, weight: 6'1", 211
Age (2014 season age): 22
Acquired: 1st round (10), 2014 ($2,970,000)
Date(s) seen: 6/13/15 and 6/14/15 vs. New Britain Rock Cats: 3-10, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K
2015 so far:
A+: 206 PA, .283/.350/.462, 26 K, 17 BB
AA: 78 PA, .400/.500/.662, 15 K, 13 BB

At the plate

Michael Conforto is a very polished offensive prospect. That was his calling card when he was drafted, and it was definitely on display when I saw him. The swing can get long at times, especially when he is gearing up in hitter's counts, but his large forearms get the bat going quickly and combined with some loft in the swing give him easy plus raw power. If you serve a fastball when he is looking for it, he will do some damage. He also has enough bat control to adjust to off-speed pitches and is strong enough to hook a breaking ball into right field even when fooled.

Conforto did show some over-eagerness when ahead in the count. College and A-ball arms are far less likely to throw soft stuff 2-1 than their Double-A counterparts, and Eastern League pitchers can start those 2-1 off-speed offerings in the zone. I don't doubt he will adjust to this with more upper minors at-bats, but it is an adjustment he will have to make. In this game, he was trying to hit every 2-1 pitch 400 feet and that left him well out in front of the better off-speed stuff at this level.

So Conforto offers some bat control and some pop, but what really makes him a potential offensive force in the majors is the approach. It makes the whole package play up. This isn't just strike zone control, though Conforto is good at recognizing pitches and recognizing strikes. He takes major-league-quality at-bats. There is both an approach and a plan. He is active even when taking a pitch and will zone a fastball and look to do some damage (Brandon Nimmo, who also gets praised for his approach and strike zone knowledge, is far more 'passive' in these aspects). He also makes quick adjustments within his plate appearances.

In his most impressive at-bat of the weekend, Conforto worked out a leadoff walk in a close game against a reliever sitting 96-98 with a 90 mph split/change thing. Conforto just couldn't square the velocity, but fouled off fastball after fastball and took some close off-speed pitches to work his way back to a walk. Later in the same game, he fell behind again, but fouled off a breaking ball, took a breaking ball, and went back up the middle with a fastball. It was a nice at-bat, and when a single was enough to win the game, Conforto didn't try to do more than that. I point this out only because it is unusual to see that kind of advanced approach even at the Double-A level. This is more than just 'plate discipline.'

Overall, I expect the pop to carry the profile a little more than the hit. The swing is geared for power, and I think plus major league velocity inside could give him some trouble, so I don't see him challenging for batting titles at the highest level. I do think he will hit enough to let the plus power play in-game, and. .260 with an above-average OBP and 20+ bombs, even in a corner, is a very nice player in this offensive era.

Hit

Current Grade: 40 (Below average/.240 BA)

Future Grade: 50 (Average/.260 BA)

Raw Power

Current Grade: 60 (Above-average/Plus)

Future Grade: 60 (Above-average/Plus)

Game Power

Current Grade: 50 (Average/ 15-18 HR)

Future Grade: 60 (Above-average/Plus/21-25 HR)

In the field

Conforto's profile is left field only, but he's far from a butcher out there. He has good instincts in the outfield that cover for his lack of foot speed. His arm is fringy, but plays up due to the accuracy of his throws. He throws accurately on the run and against his body. He is a better athlete than his stocky build suggests and should be serviceable in left field for a while, though it is likely that the body eventually forces him to first base in his thirties. There isn't much else to say about his glove, but in this instance that isn't really a bad thing.

Glove (LF)

Current Grade: 50 (Average)

Future Grade: 50 (Average)

Arm

Current Grade: 50 (Average)

Future Grade: 50 (Average)

Run

Current Grade: 40 (Below-average)

Future Grade: 35 (Well-below-average)

The optimistic projection

60: Above-average regular/first division starter

The likely outcome

55: Solid-average regular

I like Conforto a lot, but the value here is in the major league certainty over All-Star upside. If he continues to refine his approach against off-speed stuff, and the power plays to its full potential, he will be a good everyday player in the majors for a long time.

What to look for during the rest of the 2015 season

Conforto is, as I am writing this, hitting an even .400 in Double-A. Granted, it is only 78 plate appearances, but he is closer to major league ready than any bat in the system, and I don't see a huge test for the offensive projection until he reaches the majors. So the only question here is: How soon will that be? I'd personally keep him in Binghamton for a bit to make some of the adjustments against off-speed pitches I mentioned, but if Michael Cuddyer or Curtis Granderson goes down with an injury, I'd be hard-pressed to argue that Conforto isn't the best everyday outfield option. Regardless, how aggressively the Mets handle him the rest of the season is what I will be keeping an eye on.