Just shy of a year ago, Michael Conforto was wowing Mets fans and brass alike with his sparkling spring training debut, a three-hit effort that had Keith Hernandez raving on air. "I think I spy another hitter," Keith beamed that March afternoon. Nearly five months later, Conforto was in New York making his debut at Citi Field, a debut that would cement the outfielder into the team's plans for the foreseeable future. Michael Conforto looks like a burgeoning star hitter and a key piece of the Mets' offensive puzzle in 2016.
At the plate, Conforto nearly has it all. He's got the beautiful left-handed stroke for those of us who enjoy the aesthetic part of the game. He has excellent command of the strike zone and the hand eye coordination to keep his strikeout totals reasonable. He's got power, evidenced by the nine home runs and 14 doubles belted in just under 200 regular season plate appearances, good for a .236 ISO. Let's also not forget about the three postseason home runs. Overall, Conforto hit .270/.335/.506 with a 134 wRC+, which over a full season would've placed him near the top of qualified MLB left fielders behind David Peralta (138), Yoenis Cespedes (135), and Michael Brantley (135). Small sample size be damned, that's a special player.
What does 2016 hold for Conforto? He'll go into the year as the team's starting left fielder now that Michael Cuddyer has retired and will certainly play against all right-handed pitchers. Meanwhile, Terry Collins says the Mets will expose him to more left-handed pitching, which is a necessary part of his development but could also cut into his overall numbers should he experience typical struggles. Steamer's projections for Conforto appear a bit conservative at .260/.321/.435 and 2.2 WAR, but that's certainly not bad for a safe projection. ZiPS projections are quite a bit rosier on Conforto's power projection, while all three projection system appear to underrate Conforto's on base skills and defense if 2015's small sample is to be believed.
With regards to the lefties, it may be hard to juggle the lineup as Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson are typically everyday players. Perhaps against the tough lefties, Cespedes will patrol left field with Juan Lagares in center and Conforto shifting to right field in place of Granderson, who's had his struggles against the southpaws. Conforto's defense looked quite fine in left field and his arm, though not of Cespedes' caliber, certainly appears playable in right field on occasion, if not more often.
However it shakes out in 2016, the Mets have themselves quite a young hitter in Conforto and it'll be a lot of fun to watch him rack up 500-600 plate appearances this year. Could the Mets have their best young hitter since a kid named David Wright burst onto the scene in 2004? Wright hit .293/.332/.525 as a rookie, showing a similarly exciting mix of power and contact ability. Maybe the Mets have found themselves another stud.