Mets outfielder Michael Conforto hasn’t appeared in any game action since he tore his shoulder last August, and he’s a lock to start the 2018 campaign on the disabled list. However, his recovery from surgery is going quite well during spring training.
On Thursday, MLB.com reporter Anthony DiComo watched Conforto take part in a full session of batting practice before the Oregon State product ran down some fly balls in the outfield. The batting practice news is especially exciting since Conforto injured his shoulder while swinging the bat. Before arriving at Port St. Lucie, the Mets set a target on May 1 for the outfielder’s return, and it sounds like he’s on pace to hit that mark.
Before getting hurt last year, Conforto hit .279/.384/.555 with 27 home runs while leading the team with a 146 wRC+. Even with the time missed, he still tied for the Mets lead in FanGraphs WAR with 4.4 alongside Jacob deGrom. In 2018, Conforto figures to be the key piece in a veteran-laden offense that was right around league average in runs scored in 2017 despite the trades of Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, and Neil Walker as well as an injury to Yoenis Cespedes.
Conforto’s absence this April might not be all bad. With Cespedes and Bruce locked into corner outfield spots, the first month of the season will give Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares chances at regular playing time. If at least one of the two can establish himself as a productive center fielder, it could change skipper Mickey Callaway’s plans for the remainder of the campaign.
When Conforto does come back, it’s possible that he takes over the center field role or moves to right field while Jay Bruce takes over at first base. Either way, there will be a lot of pressure for Nimmo, Lagares, and current first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to come up big in April.