Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
On an episode of Baseball Night in New York on SNY months ago, one sage predicted Michael Conforto would have an OPS of .950, which would mean a monster 2019 for the Mets outfielder.
Only four players got to that mark last year and they're all boldface baseball names - Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez and Christian Yelich. Eight players are now at .950 or better in this homer-happy season, including Trout and Yelich, so it's obviously rarified air.
Conforto? He started Monday with an OPS of .850, 100 points below what might have been a rash projection. (By now, perhaps you've figured out that I was that prognosticating panelist.)
I bring it all up not because I'm running away from my forecast, but as a way to get into the idea that perhaps Conforto doesn't get the appreciation he should. He might be, in part, a victim of being the 10th overall pick and having a widely-admired, smooth swing and the outsized expectations that come with both.
Even if he doesn't get to .950 this season, he's still a darn good player. I'd just be wrong on a prediction for, well, not the first or last time.
Sure, Conforto is not leading the league in any major categories. Yes, he's streaky, which rankles Mets fans. If you're still into batting average, .256 doesn't exactly light up the stat sheet. And he's had some injuries, including a concussion this year, which perhaps have affected his output over what is still a young career.
His numbers aren't Trout-ian. The popular bar or barbecue debate among Mets and Yankees fans has shifted from, "Would you rather have Michael Conforto or Aaron Judge" to a similar choice between Judge and Pete Alonso.
But Conforto is still having a fine year. He's 43rd overall in OPS in MLB. His .362 on-base percentage is 31st. He's got 22 home runs and he's on pace for 32, which would be a career high. His slash line in 21 games since the All-Star break is .298/.372/.548 and his OPS over that span is .920.
Conforto has at least 20 homers and 20 doubles in each of the last three seasons, only the 10th time a Met has notched three 20-20 seasons.
Asked for an assessment of Conforto's season, a scout from another team responds like this: "Home run numbers OK so far. Should hit 30. Would like to see higher batting average, maybe about .275. Looks like solid veteran who can lead by example."
Could Conforto even be more than that? "Yup," the scout says. "Numbers should be greater. I think he would thrive in a winning situation. Seems to be clutch type.
"Don't know about superstar," the scout adds, "but would be a quality player - among league leaders. Injuries seem to be a part of his game."
The Mets, now in the midst of a surprising run at a Wild Card spot, need him to sparkle if they're going to remain in the postseason picture. Robinson Cano, stirring recently at the plate, is out with a torn hamstring and Alonso has slowed down. The Mets need all the offense they can get, which is why Conforto regularly plays center field when he perhaps is better suited to a corner.
We've always been able to dream on Conforto, especially after 2015 when he came up from Double-A and had such an impact on a World Series team. Conforto smacked a postseason homer off Zack Greinke and hit two home runs in Game 4 of the World Series against Kansas City. Heady stuff, indeed.
In 2017, he was an All-Star and finished with a .939 OPS - so close! - before dislocating his shoulder.
He's only 26 years old. There's plenty of time to keep dreaming on him, whether he delivers now on a .950 OPS or not.