Mets fans have gotten what they wanted, as Michael Conforto has been promoted to the team, becoming the one-thousandth player to play for the franchise. Who is this 22-year-old from Woodinville, Washington? How has he gotten to the point of being the next big thing in the Mets' outfield?
The journey of the Mets' top prospect actually started in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where as a 12-year-old he led his All-Stars team to the Little League World Series in 2004, representing the Northwest. A few years later Conforto became a highly-coveted prospect in two sports, as he was offered scholarships to play both football and baseball. Luckily for the Mets, Conforto chose the latter and decided to spend his college years at Oregon State.
Conforto wasted no time in announcing his arrival to the college game. His freshman season at Oregon State was one of the best ever by a hitter at the school. Conforto hit .349/.437/.601 in 58 games in his freshman season, leading the Beavers in batting average that year. He hit 13 home runs, which was tied for the Pac-12 lead, and he drove in 76 runs, which broke the single-season Oregon State record for RBI in the season.
There was a little bit of a sophomore slump for Conforto. He hit .328/.447/.526 in 2012 with 11 home runs and 47 RBI. However, he led the Beavers to the College World Series, where he went 7-for-16 before falling to Mississippi State in the semi-finals. Conforto was named to the All-Tournament team, as well as being named a first-team All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year.
After once again playing for Team USA in the summer of 2013, Conforto was named the Sporting News 2014 preseason College Player of the Year. Statistically Conforto improved on his 2013 season, as he hit .345/.504/.547 with seven home runs and 56 RBI in 59 games in 2014. He was once again name the Pac-12 Player of the Year and finished as a finalist for the Golden Spikes award (best amateur player) and the Dick Howser Trophy (best collegiate player). Conforto wrapped up his career at Oregon State as the team’s career leader in RBI.
The next step for Conforto was the MLB draft. The Mets selected Conforto with the 10th pick of the 2014 amateur draft. He signed with the team on July 11, 2014. This is what Alex Nelson had to say about Conforto when profiling him during the 2014 draft:
Conforto is possibly the best college bat in a weak class, and I think he's benefited because of that. Possessing a solid build but fringe-average foot speed—and that may be a touch generous—Conforto is either a corner outfielder or a first baseman at the next level, so the bat absolutely needs to play. Production-wise, it certainly has done so at Oregon State, where he's shown above-average power and plenty of selectivity at the plate.
Unfortunately, I have some questions about his contact ability thanks to a very deep and vertical hand load that doesn't allow him to utilize his outstanding natural bat speed properly. This prevents him from making adjustments to breaking pitches, and that'll mean that strikeouts will always be a part of his game. He'll also need to watch his stride, which can be a little over-aggressive, impeding his balance at the plate. I love the power—he could hit 25 homers a year—and patience but worry he'll be a left fielder who struggles to hit .250. If he improves his arm accuracy, he may have the arm for right, but there will still be plenty of an onus on him to hit.
Conforto was sent to Low-A Brooklyn for the remainder of the 2014 season to play with the Cyclones, and he didn’t miss a beat, as he began raking in his first season as a pro. In 182 at-bats for the Cyclones, Conforto hit .340/.412/.458 with three home runs and 19 RBI. He finished the season in Brooklyn but it was clear he was ready to move fast through the system. He started the 2015 season with the St. Lucie Mets, where he showed he was all but finished with his time in A-ball. He hit .313/.396/.566 in April for the High-A Mets, and despite a slow start in May, Conforto was promoted to Double-A Binghamton.
Conforto has done nothing but hit since arriving in Binghamton. He hit .340/.411/.540 in June and has hit 312/.396/.503 with five home runs and 26 RBI in 45 games with the Mets' Double-A squad. He played in the MLB Futures Game during the All-Star break, where he impressed by going 2-for-2 and throwing out at a runner at home plate from left field. Last week he was named the Eastern League Player of the Week after hitting .438, going 7-for-16, with two home runs and three RBI over that time. Amazin' Avenue’s Jeff Paternostro got a chance to see Conforto in June and said this about the young outfielder:
"...[Conforto] 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." - Jeff Paternostro
It’s only a matter of time before Conforto is manning left-field for the Mets. Will it be tomorrow? Next week? Next year? Only time will tell. One thing that is clear though is that Conforto has a bright future with the Mets, and in baseball.