Bryce Harper is on a mission to make baseball fun again, and he's succeeding by just about any measure. As good as Harper's been so far this year, though, Michael Conforto has actually been better at the plate. The star outfielders, both 23, were both finalists for NL Player of the Month in April (Harper took the award home), but Conforto's 172 wRC+ and .432 wOBA topped Harper's for the month. Harper's defense and ridiculous power probably cemented it, with his .659 slugging percentage topping Conforto's mark.
Regardless, it's really a quibble over a margin of error. The real story here is that Michael Conforto is hitting on the same level as one of the two best players in the game (Mike Trout being the other), and is putting himself in the conversation for one of its best young batsmen himself. When asked about Harper, Conforto was honest in his admiration for the Nats' star.
"Yeah, it’s crazy, but that’s the kind of player that I want to be. I look at him and I want to be that guy. To be able to hit the way he does when pitchers fear him so much, it’s incredible...I look at him and all the guys that are winning MVPs and are superstars in this game, and that’s who I want to be like. But obviously, I’m me. I don’t want to say I want to be those players. I want to be the best there is of myself."
The Harper comparison is an interesting one at the plate. Both debuted barely a year after being drafted, had nearly identical time at the plate in the minors (Conforto had 589 plate appearances, Harper 569). While a direct comparison of the two players in their first half-season of games played isn't really fair or easy to do (Harper had his out of high school and junior college at 19, Conforto at 22 and 23 after a storied career at Oregon State), and while nobody is saying Conforto is Harper's equal, it's still an incredible feat that Conforto is mentioned alongside Harper at all.
Instead, let's take a look at the numbers for the two since Conforto's debut on July 24, 2015:
Sample sample size caveats apply and all that. Obviously, Harper has been the better player. He's been the best player in the game over that time and has been a prodigy since before he could get a learner's permit. However, Conforto does compare rather favorably, especially considering these are his first 80 games. If Conforto ends up anywhere between debut season Harper and current Harper, nobody will be complaining.
Clearly Conforto has the drive and desire to become one of the game's best players, and he is certainly well on his way. He wants to be a superstar, and his perfect swing will certainly help him get there. The evolution of his swing is something worth reading about. Oregon State head baseball coach Pat Casey said that "if you were going to build a hitter and had to put a body and a mind together, Michael is as close as you can get to intertwining them into an ideal," and he was hardly exaggerating. Kevin Long compared him to Joe Mauer and Yoenis Cespedes.
He's made many adjustments, especially on inside pitches, and he seems ready to adapt to any scenario. He's already an excellent and smart hitter, and it's more than reasonable to be incredibly excited about what the future holds for Conforto.