Since the Rule 4 Draft was instituted in 1965, 45 of the 55 selected with the 10th overall pick have gone on to make a major league debut. Of those players, twenty-seven produced positive value for their team. Many of those players went on to have outstanding careers, most notably Mark McGwire, Robin Ventura, Ted Simmons, Ben Sheets, and Tim Lincecum, among others.
Thanks to their 74-88 record in 2013, the Mets had the tenth overall selection in the 2014 MLB Draft. With their pick, they selected Michael Conforto, an outfielder from Oregon State University. At the time, Conforto was considered one of, if not the, most complete hitters in the 2015 draft class. Other prep or collegiate hitters might have had better individual tools or ceilings that were considered higher, but Conforto’s ability to hit for power and for average in both the present and projected into the future made him one of the most attractive players in the class.
Conforto attended Redmond High School in Redmond, Washington, where he stood out on the gridiron and on the baseball diamond. Excelling in sporting activities was nothing new for his family: his father, Michael, was a linebacker for Penn State from 1976 to 1978; his mother, Tracie Lehuanani Ruiz-Conforto, was a Olympic swimmer who brought home the gold in the 1984 and 1988 games; his uncle, Brian Ching, played soccer for the US National team as well as professionally for Major League Soccer for the better part of decade; his sister, Jacqueline, played soccer for Azusa Pacific University.
He excelled in both sports, but eventually settled on baseball because it would be easier on his body. Considered one of the best prep players in the state of Washington by the time he graduated in 2011, Conforto went undrafted thanks to his very strong commitment to Oregon State University, a school whose scholastic and athletic programs attracted him and where a very close friend would be attending as well.
In his first year, Conforto was named Freshman Hitter of the Year by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, the NCAA named him Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, and he received a slew of other awards and ceremonial team listings. He hit an exceptional .349/.437/.601 in 58 games with 13 home runs, 1 stolen base in 2 attempts, 24 walks, and 37 strikeouts. His batting average led his team, his home runs tied for the lead in the 2012 Pac-12, and his 76 runs batted in broke the single-season OSU record.
Conforto played for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team that summer and when he returned hit .328/.447/.526 in 65 games for OSU, slugging 11 home runs, stealing 6 bases in 11 attempts, walking 41 times, and striking out 42 times, a stat line that earned him Pac-12 Player of the Year honors. He played for Team USA for a second time after his sophomore year and came back an even better player. Appearing in 59 games, Conforto solidified himself into one of the top players in the 2014 MLB Draft by hitting .345/.504/.547 with 7 home runs, 4 stolen bases in 8 attempts, 55 walks, and 38 strikeouts. He was named the Pac-12 Baseball Player of the Year for a second consecutive year and was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award and the Dick Howser Trophy, both of which were eventually won by A.J. Reed.
With their first-round selection in the 2014 MLB Draft, the Mets selected Conforto. The two sides took some time to come together, but roughly a week before the signing deadline, the Mets and Conforto agent Scott Boras announced that they had agreed to a $2.97 million signing bonus. The amount was the value assigned by Major League Baseball, but the two sides were unable to sign a deal sooner because of non-financial reasons.
Assigned to the Brooklyn Cyclones for the remainder of the year, Conforto had one of the better offensive seasons in team history, hitting .331/.403/.448 in 42 games with 3 home runs, 3 stolen bases in 3 attempts, 16 walks, and 29 strikeouts. He began the 2015 season with the St. Lucie Mets but was promoted to Binghamton after hitting .283/.350/.462 with 7 home runs, 17 walks, and 27 strikeouts over the course of the first month of the season. His time there was equally fruitful, as he hit .312/.396/.503 in 45 games for the Binghamton Mets, slugging 5 home runs, walking 23 times, and striking out 35 times.
On July 24, 2015, he was called up to the New York Mets, and the rest is history.