Alderson looks to get Conforto regular at-bats which most likely means starting in Triple-A Las Vegas
Speaking on BNNY on Tuesday evening, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson hinted at the prospect that if no outfielders are traded then Michael Conforto will most likely begin the 2017 season in the minors.
It’s been a whirlwind of rumors surrounding every outfielder outside of Yoenis Cespedes. However, every changing wind has a secondary impact on Conforto.
After the Mets decided to reverse course on Jay Bruce, it left Conforto as at best, a fourth outfielder who would get limited playing time unless injuries occurred.
This move makes sense to at least continue giving Conforto more consistent playing time. He’ll obviously play every day and he should be in line to put up strong numbers once again in Las Vegas.
The main question will continue to be if Conforto can hit lefties consistently enough to get to the Majors and stay there. In 62 at-bats against southpaws at the MLB level, Conforto is hitting .129 with one extra base hit.
There was talk that Conforto could get a look at first base with the uncertainty surrounding Lucas Duda, who comes off an injury-plagued 2016 campaign. However, it’s still a number crunch. With all things being equal and all players opening the year healthy, the bench could likely be: Rene Rivera, TJ Rivera, Wilmer Flores, Jose Reyes, and Juan Lagares.
Another underlying factor is the positional versatility that TJ Rivera has. Plus, his consistency with the bat has taken the guess work fully out of what the offense will look like on Opening Day.
Even if Conforto has a great spring, he’s still going to be hard pressed to find consistent enough playing time. Meanwhile, Rivera can roam around different positions on the infield.
The Bruce situation has produced a ripple effect and Conforto has been left as the odd man out for the moment. Could things change? Certainly. How much time will Conforto get a first base? Plus, if he handles the position well defensively and hits well enough, that could make the Mets re-evaluate this decision.
For the moment, though, Conforto will be squeezed out of the parent club. The plus side is both in the immediate and distant future. Long term, he’ll be in line for a full-time starting job at this time next year with the contracts of Bruce and Curtis Granderson set to expire.
Conforto, a former first round pick back in 2014, ascended quickly through the ranks. Even though he could start the season in Triple-A, there’s very little doubt he will be back with the Mets at some point during 2017.