Michael Conforto has been the root of the Mets turnaround in 2015
There was a time in 2015 when club officials felt there was next to no chance Michael Conforto would be considered for a promotion to Triple-A Las Vegas, let alone the big leagues.
But as the 22-year-old excelled in the pitching-friendly Florida State League with Single-A St. Lucie and then at Double-A Binghamton – a jump which is considered the most difficult in the minor leagues – questions sprung about Conforto’s candidacy to not just get promoted to Las Vegas, but to join the big league club in Flushing.
The questions only intensified as the offense slumbered into mid-July and Michael Cuddyer’s balky knee was keeping him out of more and more games.
But the front office remained skeptical promoting Conforto was a wise idea. Sandy Alderson said himself warned the Mets had been very fortunate with the success of their young starting pitchers, and not everyone – especially hitters – come to the big leagues and enjoy immediate success.
And so, this was the internal struggle for the Mets. They had a need, and Conforto might help, but could he help? Was it best for the short and long-term goals for the organization to promote their best position player prospect from Double-A, only a year after inking him to his first professional contract?
The Mets decided to take that gamble ahead of their game against the Dodgers at Citi Field on July 24, not knowing how well he’d do or how long he’d last in the big leagues.
Even his own agent, Scott Boras, reportedly felt it more appropriate to call up Conforto when rosters expanded on September 1.
But six weeks later, Conforto has not only lasted, but he has excelled at a high level and served as the root of the team’s remarkable turnaround.
Conforto turned in another spectacular performance at the plate on Wednesday night against the Phillies, clubbing his fifth home run of the season as part of a 2-for-4 night at the plate.
His home run was an opposite field shot, his first such homer of his career.
“When I’m going the other way well, I always feel like I’m hitting well and things are clicking,” Conforto said after the game.
Conforto is hitting an even .400 (20-for-50) in his last 17 games with five doubles, four home runs and nine RBI.
He is 7-for-11 with two home runs over his last four games.
There’s just one caveat to Conforto’s success in what is looking like a very promising career – all of the damage has come against right-handed pitching.
But this is no fault of Conforto’s. He has only seven plate appearances against left-handed pitching in the big leagues so far this season.
And for now, Conforto will be limited to facing right-handed pitching.
“We’ve brought people in here that hit lefties, that have a career record of hitting lefties,” manager Terry Collins said. “And right now that’s what we’ve been doing, and I’m going to stay with it.”
There’s every reason to believe Conforto can and probably will excel against left-handed pitching. He posted a .774 OPS against southpaws in the minor leagues this season with ten extra-base hits in 127 plate appearances.
But to Collins’ point, the Mets have a system in place which offered plenty of quality right-handed hitting options against southpaws, affording them an opportunity to play more advantageous match-ups right now.
Besides, there’s no reason to tinker with what’s clearly working for both the player and the club as a whole in the middle of a pennant race.
And Conforto is fine with the system, too.