New York Mets Michael Conforto: Breakout Candidate in 2016?

The New York Mets seemed poised to make another October run in 2016, thanks in large part to their dominant rotation. But, no matter how good their rotation could be, they still need run support to win games. When the Mets made the deal for Yoenis Cespedes at the deadline, no one thought that he would come in and produce at the rate he did. So with it looking as if Cespedes time in Queens is over, who steps up and fills that void?

No matter who you ask, the answer seems to always point to one guy: Michael Conforto. Conforto made his debut last year and as in the case with some rookies, he was overshadowed by more of the higher profile rookies last season. But, during his 56 game stretch and postseason appearance, his production reminded Mets fans and all baseball fans alike, that his upside is evident.

Conforto was drafted as the 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft out of Oregon State University and it was clear that he was as polished as any prospect you are going to find. He had a great career at Oregon State and his road to the majors looked clear as the Mets were desperate for outfield support. He would go on to only play 133 games across his two years in the minors before making it to the majors and he looks poised to be here to stay for some time. His time in the minors reestablished the praise that Conforto entered the draft with, as he displayed his great approach at the plate and showcased his gap to gap power as well.

He never had an AVG below .270 in the minors nor ever had an OPS below .800, so his expedited rise through the minors had merit. Before his call up last season, he ended his minor league season with 12 HR and 24 doubles, which shows that he is already displaying that line to line hitting ability that transitions well to the MLB level and points to further power production.

Conforto’s value is also buoyed more by the fact that the Mets are fully prepared to start him in LF in 2016 without being platooned. With Cespedes practically out the door and Michael Cuddyer’s abrupt retirement, the situation has fully left the door open for Conforto to remain unchallenged for playing time as the Mets want his stick in the lineup at all costs.

While 56 games is a small MLB sample size, his 31 LD% last season aligns right about where it was in the minors. Which encourages optimism that his power is continuing to come along as he keeps making consistent hard contact, hopefully allowing more of his doubles to ultimately turn into homeruns next season. He also posted 14 doubles in the bigs, so paired with his 9 HR, you have nearly half of his 47 hits last season going for extra bases.

The Mets want him to step up and be that middle of the lineup producer and nothing about his minor league stats nor major league sample says that he can not be capable of filling that role. The only knock on Conforto’s debut last season was that he struggled against lefties. In the minors he performed decently against them, but last season he only hit .214 versus LHP. New York had their concerns also, which is why they protected him from LHP for the large part of his debut last season, he only had 14 AB against LHP in 2015. It is way too small of a sample size to raise fantasy owner’s doubts, but also something to keep in mind since the Mets thought it may be an issue themselves.

Even if he does struggle transitioning in the MLB against lefties, his value is still immense. He had a .275 AVG versus righties last season, so even if he can maintain close to that level of production and see a small uptick against lefties next season, what you have is a solid fantasy OF. Conforto should definitely be on a lot of owner’s radar, and almost a must have target next season. I wish he offered something steals wise, but his power and run producing production make him a solid OF3 option, with the upside to enter OF2 status.

You really do not hear a lot about Conforto in talks about the top upcoming talents in MLB, but he truly is one of the most polished hitters of last year’s class and owners should hope that he continues to be overlooked because it will make him a huge steal if you can snag him toward the latter half of drafts. Make it a point to draft him next season.

2016 Early Projection: .260/20 HR/65 RBI/1 SB/.850 OPS