The Mets promoted 2014 first-round pick, left fielder Michael Conforto from advanced Single-A St. Lucie to Double-A Binghamton, putting him just two steps from the big leagues. This is more significant than the average minor league promotion from Single to Double-A, because it concerns an area of need on the big league team.
In 46 games with St. Lucie, Conforto hit .283, with a .350 on-base percentage and a .462 slugging percentage, with 12 doubles and seven home runs. At the time of his promotion, he was tied for the league lead in total bases (85) and doubles and was second in slugging, fourth in homers and HR/AB ratio.
Beyond the numbers, scouts who have seen Conforto this year have been nearly universal in their acclaim. In April, a scout for a National League team said simply that Conforto was the best player he had seen on the circuit, who was "too good for the league." More recently, another evaluator for a National League organization praised Conforto's approach and thought not only that he was going to play in the big leagues but would end up an above-average left fielder when he got there, capable of more 20-25 home runs a year.
"He's not going to have any problem," another scout said, speaking about Conforto's transition to Double-A.
The decision to promote Conforto from St. Lucie makes sense, given the frequency with which Florida State League pitchers were not pitching to him. He led the FSL with six intentional walks, accounting for 86 percent of St. Lucie's team total. No other player who was active in the FSL on May 29 had more than three intentional walks, and only two had more than one. Conforto was being pitched around at an extremely high rate by the standards of A-ball.
Concerto's approach is interesting in that in advanced Single-A, he walk and strike out rates were so low for top prospects and power hitters more broadly. He drew an unintentional walk in only 5.5 percent of his plate appearances. More advanced pitchers will force him to see more pitches. On the other hand, Conforto fanned in only 13 percent of his non-intentional walk plate appearances, which bodes well for his ability to make contact as he moves up the ladder.
In the larger picture, where does Conforto fit into the Mets plans in the short and long term? In the very short term, he'll be playing in Double-A. Matt Cerrone already raised the possibility that he would play in Citi Field in the big leagues before the end of the 2015 season. That is not farfetched at all. If he hits in Double-A, he will see the big leagues because the Mets need his bat. Entering Friday's play, Mets' outfielders had put up a combined 81 wRC+, (a measure of offensive value where 100 is average), 28th out of 30 teams in baseball. While Juan Lagares earns his keep by playing superlative defense, the Mets' $24.5 million investment in a corner outfield of Michael Cuddyer and Curtis Grandson has so far produced a combined 1.1 fWAR through the Mets' first 48 games. Over a full season, that's a 3.7 fWAR from the corners combined. Both Cuddyer (45 games) and Grandson (48) games have been durable, but they simply have not been good enough to move the Mets toward the playoffs.
Conforto is a bat-first player. He moves well enough now to play an average left field, but his bat will drive his value. He offers little in the way of speed, and in fact, led the FSL by hitting into eight double plays.
With a big June and July, he could go from the B-Mets to the Big Mets.
The Chain ReactionUp to Triple-ATo clear space for Conforto to play everyday in the Binghamton outfield, the Mets promoted Jayce Boyd. The 24-year-old Boyd had hit .304/.360/.422 in 42 games in double-A with 13 walks, 16 strikeouts and one homer. The right-handed batter features a mature approach and looks to punch the ball to right field. He has made the transition to left field this year after beginning his professional career at first base. He just does not have the power to profile as an everyday guy at a corner position.
Up to advanced Single-ATo replace Conforto, the Mets promoted OF/1B Stefan Sabol from Savannah to St. Lucie. The 23-year-old Sabol, in his third go-round with the Gnats was hitting .242/.348/.379 in 38 games this year for the Gnats. He's a strong, patient guy who strikes out a lot.
Up to Single-ATo replace Sabol, the Mets promoted Joe Tuschak from extended spring training. Tuschak, the Mets' 6th round pick in 2011, has never hit much as a professional. In 2014, he hit .211/.300/.298 in 36 games with Brooklyn with two homers.