The situation: The Mets have a young and talented pitching staff. They stand at two games over .500 and only three games out of a wild card spot despite scoring only 329 runs – good for worst in the National League and second-worst in all of baseball. The absence of David Wright has been felt all year, and now with Michael Cuddyer hurting, the lineup looks shallower than ever. Conforto is hitting a blistering .297/.372/.482 and the hope is that his talented young bat can provide a spark.
Background: Undrafted as a Seattle-area high school player, Conforto took his game down the coast to Oregon State for college. The left-handed slugger had a tremendous freshman season and hasn't stopped hitting since. His NCAA slash line finished up at .340/.463/.557 in a very tough PAC-12 conference. Were he to stay up in the bigs and never play another game in the minors his career MiLB line would stand at .308/.382/.471. I personally saw Conforto both at short season Brooklyn and Double-A Binghamton within the last calendar year. The Mets liked the appeal of this advanced, low-risk college outfielder enough to take him with the 10th overall pick a year ago.
Scouting report: Conforto is a bat first left fielder, but that bat has some substantial appeal. He projects to hit for average and power while getting on base at an above-average rate. Above-average bat speed, strength, pitch recognition skills, control of the strike zone, and a power swing plane will lead to a strong offensive skill set. He will have trouble catching up to velocity inside with his swing, and there is a good amount of swing and miss. This is still a left-handed power bat that can hit in the meat of the order.
The downside is that Conforto doesn’t do anything else particularly well. He’s a thickly built, below-average runner who is limited to left field defensively, although he might be fringe-average out there for now. His arm is below-average and his lack of foot speed limits his range in the outfield.
Our prospect team is definitely sold on Conforto’s bat; this guy will hit in the big leagues. Where we have reservations is exactly how this profile should be valued. Bat-first left fielders are expected to rake. The pressure on Conforto to consistently crush the ball is very high and the question is whether the bat can live up to that expectation. He’s got a strong chance to be an above-average major league regular along with a very high floor, but isn't necessarily likely to be a star.
Immediate big-league future: It’s always unfair to expect a young hitter to immediately crush big league pitching. Big-league arms have fantastic stuff, make far fewer mistakes than minor leaguers and know all sorts of tricks. The unfairness of the situation is multiplied when the hitter in question was playing college baseball 13 months ago. All the same, the appeal of seeing if a young hitter on a hot streak can provide a jump start to the Mets offense is very intriguing. If Conforto doesn’t hit, you can send him back down and he’s a mature enough bat that the risk is fairly minimal. – Al Skorupa
Fantasy Impact: Although it seems like Mets fans have been clamoring for Conforto’s promotion for years, in reality the 22-year-old outfielder has “only” had 166 plate appearances in the high minors (at Double-A Binghamton) in his brief professional career. While there were some questions about the Mets dubious decision to leave the polished college hitter at low-A Ball in Brooklyn in 2014, the other side of this coin is that the leap to the majors could be tough sledding for Conforto, particularly in the early going. Although he will miss Zack Greinke in the current series with the Dodgers, the Mets slate for the next three series (Dodgers, Padres, and Nationals) isn’t particularly appetizing from a match-ups standpoint.
All this being said, Conforto should hit enough to survive in the majors. He is often described as having one of the most “polished bats” in the minor leagues. The question is how much fantasy value Conforto will have. If the over-the-fence power doesn’t translate immediately, an empty .280 average from an outfielder won’t do much of anything for anyone who isn’t in an NL-only league. If, on the other hand, he can pull most of that power over into the big leagues (12 home runs in 403 minor league plate appearances), that could give Conforto some borderline value in deeper mixed formats.
Some of the issues in fantasy don’t surround Conforto but rather the team that he is joining. The Mets are presumably a contender based on their won-loss record, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it by looking at their lineup. Playing on a team without David Wright, Travis D’Arnaud, and Michael Cuddyer is going to diminish Conforto’s run and RBI opportunities significantly. It also isn’t certain if Conforto will play against left-handed pitching or if the Mets will sit him against tough left-handers at a minimum. To get to that deep mixed ownership threshold listed above, Conforto has to play every day. You aren’t going to get any speed out of Conforto, so everything has to go right for his deeper-mixed value to coalesce.
Brian Walton of Mastersball bid $15 on Conforto in Tout Wars NL-only on July 6. If you really want him (Conforto, not Walton), that’s probably the aggressive bid you’ll have to make. One thing to consider in NL-only is that the influx of hitting talent coming over from the AL at the trade deadline might be super thin or non-existent, so Conforto could be one of the better hitters to pop up on the free agent pool depending on your league’s minor league rules. I wouldn’t expect him to be available in most dynasty formats. In 15-team mixed, I’d bid five dollars, and that may even be a little high. The potential is decent, but for 2015 only, it would be wise to temper your expectations in anything but an NL-only. – Mike Gianella
- 90th percentile: .297/.369/.493, 3.5 WARP
- 50th percentile: .246/.311/.408, 0.7 WARP
- 10th percentile: .197/.254/.326, -1.3 WARP
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