When high-profile rookies arrive in the big leagues, they're often unfairly assigned the weight of the franchise's fortunes on their shoulders. When a first-round pick debuts in the midst of a playoff run and outperforms all reasonable expectations by a mile, he usually turns into an overnight sensation.
Not Michael Conforto, who is enjoying the quietest tear imaginable for a New York-based rookie.
After weeks of wondering whether he was ready to handle a big league role, Conforto was promoted to the majors on July 24. At the time, the Mets worried about the pressure associated with tossing the decorated prospect into an offense on life support. With Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe joining him and Yoenis Cespedes and Travis d'Arnaud arriving a week later, plus David Wright a little while afterwards, that fear quickly vanished.
In an alternate universe where Cespedes remains on the Detroit Tigers, Conforto could have instead become a folklore hero adorned with laughable MVP chants. Through 47 games, the 22-year-old is hitting .284/.360/.532 with eight home runs and 11 doubles. By BaseballReference.com's measure, his 2.3 WAR beats out Cespedes's 2.0 WAR accrued over 48 games with the Mets.
He doesn't have the gaudy batting average or moon-scraping power admired by casual fans, but Conforto has provided New York elite results at the plate. Avoiding left-handed pitchers has allowed the lefty slugger to register the highest wOBA (.380) among all National League rookies. Yep, even Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, both recognized as certified monsters. Only a dozen of qualified hitters, Cespedes or any left fielder not among them, hold a better mark.
Digging deeper, he has earned every bit of his success. He has punished baseballs with a 42.0 hard-hit percentage, a rate only four hitters with at least 150 plate appearances have eclipsed. His average exit velocity of 93.77 mph ranks a hair above Miguel Cabrera at 10th. This isn't a case of someone riding good fortune on batted balls over a short stint.
As an added bonus, he has pleasantly surprised on the field, looking like an above-average defender rather than a liability with six outfield assists and no errors. Playing Cespedes out of position in center would prove much tougher to swallow if the guy taking his usual spot couldn't handle the job.
Granted, he has wowed in a small sample size, almost exclusively against righties and against relatively weak competition. Yet that hasn't stopped Cespedes from receiving brief MVP consideration and d'Arnaud basking in the "Yeah, but he's also really good" rub. Add one more name to the list of position-player studs. (While you're add it, might as well also appreciate Curtis Granderson.)
David Wright submitted a .363 wOBA during his 2004 debut. Darryl Strawberry finished his 1983 arrival with a .367 wOBA in 122 games. Rather than panicking about the small possibility of maybe blowing a division lead, let's smile and admire one of the team's best rookie showcases ever.