Mets outfielder Michael Conforto is showing signs that he has picked up where he left off before dislocating his shoulder during the second half of last season.
He's been especially on fire since September 4, hitting .345 with five doubles, six HR and 20 RBI during 12 games and 55 at bats.
"This is the Michael Conforto that everybody wants to see," manager Mickey Callaway said after Monday night's game, during which Conforto had a career-high six RBI.
During the second half of this season, his 45 RBI are the fourth-most in baseball and the second most in the National League. Also, he's batting .286 during 105 at bats against left-handed pitching. His ability to hit lefties was the big concern about his game when he first entered the league in 2015.
More important, he's not just hitting well the last week or so, he's been progressively better since the end of May, which -- by the way -- is around time most insiders predicted he would first be returning from last summer's shoulder surgery. Instead, two months ahead of schedule, he returned on Opening Day, but struggled during April and May. However, after that, he started showing signs of being the guy that made the National League's All Star team in 2017.
For instance, though Conforto is hitting just .242 during his past 141 games and .266 during the past month, he's hitting .360 during the last two weeks. In other words, finally, he's clearly healthy, clicking and giving confidence to whomever will be running the Mets that he can again be counted on as a middle-of-the-order bat and everyday outfielder.
I've been saying since 2015 that Conforto is capable of taking the torch from David Wright to become the face of this franchise and locked-in number three hitter. The thing is, despite already being 25 years old with 1,565 plate appearances under his belt, he's only just now getting a chance to play a full season in the big leagues. Unfortunately, it hasn't been a full, healthy season in the big leagues.
Last August, Conforto left a game against the D-backs with a dislocated left shoulder after he swung and missed at a pitch and fell to the ground, clutching his shoulder in pain.
"It turns your stomach," Conforto's manager last season, Terry Collins, said at the time of the injury. "A young player who's having a tremendous year, really making a name for himself, to go down with an injury like that, it's tough to watch."
The x-rays on his shoulder were negative, but an MRI later revealed a tear in the posterior capsule, which eventually led to a surgery that had little precedent from which to gauge his return.
Regardless of how he performed during the second half of this season, Conforto was one of the only players on the current roster guaranteed to be in next season's Opening Day lineup. The rest of the team's young position players, including Brandon Nimmo and Amed Rosario, still had plenty to prove, especially if a new GM would be controlling their fate.
With eyes on them, the trio has continued to grow and are all putting to bed any concerns that they cannot be counted on next season. Conforto, in particular, is primed to elevate his game now when you consider his resume, which includes playing in postseason games, a World Series and an All Star Game, having to rehab from a major surgery and regain his swing. He has also persevered through multiple demotions and promotions.
The team's new GM is going to have to work around, work with or trade Jay Bruce. He or she will need to settle on internal options or find new talent to play catcher, fill multiple spots in the bullpen, figure out what to do with Yoenis Cespedes, possibly acquire a mid-rotation starting pitcher, add to the bullpen, stabilize first base and maybe replace their third baseman.
It's a lot of work and a lot of question marks. Thankfully, based on what Conforto was doing prior to dislocating his shoulder, and based on what he's been doing since the All-Star break.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!