Mets OF Michael Conforto hit his second home run of the spring on Sunday, giving him five hits -- two against lefties -- in seven spring at-bats.
"I feel good," Conforto said after the game. "The work that we've been putting in, the extra swings and stuff … it's definitely paying off. I've just got to stick to the routine and hopefully keep doing what I'm doing."
"He has worked very hard," Mets manager Terry Collins said after the game. "His swing is as good as I've seen, and I've seen a lot of them. ... It's flatter and he's not swinging uphill like he did last year. I think he just got caught up in trying to lift the ball and getting it up in the air (last year) instead of just driving the ball."
Earlier this offseason, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said it's possible Conforto begins this season playing for Triple-A Las Vegas so that he is guaranteed playing time every day. Conforto's agent, Scott Boras, disagrees.
"I've been through a lot," Conforto said. "Last year was a huge growing experience for me. It definitely helped me grow up and mature a little bit. Having the offseason to reflect on everything and let the mind settle a little bit, I feel fresh and ready to go, ready to get after it."
Conforto (30) hits during the third inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Conforto hit .337 with 15 extra base hits and 18 RBI during his first 23 games last season. He then entered a 20-for-133 (.150) slump that led to him being demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas in late-June. He bounced between the Mets and Las Vegas two more times before the end of the season, never hitting better than .240 for the Mets during either stint.
"Obviously, there's going to be tough decisions," Conforto said. "Nothing's handed to you up here in the big leagues so I'm fully prepared to earn everything that I get."
My fear for Conforto is that his short-term future will have little to do with how well he hits in March and, instead, everything to do with the health and performance of other people on the roster. Because, even if he rips the cover off the ball, if everyone else is healthy and doing well, Conforto could still end up in Vegas, which is absurd.
The fact is, Conforto will likely produce a better overall season in 2017 than Jay Bruce. Sure, Bruce will probably hit more home runs. But, that will be his only advantage. In every other category, including overall upside, I bet Conforto will edge him out. That said, the Mets have so many corner outfielders that someone has to get bumped, including Juan Lagares, who is the best defensive center fielder on the team. It's a messed up situation.
I'm trying to be patient and let it play out. The best situation will be if everyone hits, everyone is healthy and everyone warrants playing time. In that case, though some specific player will get the short straw, as an overall team, it'll be a win. The reality, though, is that something will happen -- either someone will get hurt, someone will struggle, or someone will get cut or traded -- and things will work themselves out. If not by Opening Day than certainly by the end of May.