Young slugger Aaron Judge makes his Citi Field debut Wednesday night when the Yankees play the Mets, but he will be met by fellow All-Star Michael Conforto, whose star-making 2017 is quickly climbing the list of best Mets seasons ever.
Still just 24 years old, Conforto began his third MLB season looking to put aside the memory of his disappointing sophomore effort -- and he has succeeded in a big way. His .957 OPS is 10th-best in baseball and is the seventh-best season mark in Mets history, alongside such names as Mike Piazza, David Wright, and Darryl Strawberry. He trails Judge's 1.029 mark for 2017, but is rapidly closing the gap -- and hasn't had the luxury of playing in cozy Yankee Stadium, nor the luxury of playing at his natural position.
Once scouted as a 15-to-20 home run bat, Conforto has found his power stroke in a way few Mets his age ever have. With six weeks of baseball left, he has knocked 26 home runs, tying David Wright's 2006 total for fifth-most among Mets under 25. He should easily smash the record of 30, also held by Wright. And Conforto is only getting better as the season heats up, with 12 home runs in the second half.
While Conforto's .282 average isn't eye-popping, his 13 percent walk rate gives him an excellent .389 OBP. His 25 percent strikeout rate is higher than you'd like to see, but it's not unusual for the top tier of offensive players in today's game (Judge's 32 percent is fifth- highest in baseball, with Conforto coming in at 20th). Moreover, Conforto is showing himself to be an elite contact hitter, allowing him to thrive despite high strikeout totals.
Conforto is one of the top line drive hitters in baseball right now and shows an incredible all-fields approach, with nearly 30 percent of his batted balls going to the opposite field. This kind of plate approach is difficult to teach and if he does reduce his strikeouts as he approaches his offensive peak, it's not unrealistic to expect him to easily top a .300 average, and perhaps even compete for a batting title.
As two young stars come together in Queens, this will surely not be the first time Conforto and Judge will be compared. And while Conforto may not match Judge's 6'7" stature or his 36 bombs, he is establishing himself as one of the best young hitters in the game, and making his mark on Mets history in the process.
Maggie Wiggin has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts