Michael Conforto is one of the players expected to anchor the New York Mets offense moving forward. The pressure will reach a new level in 2019.
With David Wright now finished with playing baseball, the New York Mets have huge shoes to fill. He was more than just an ordinary third baseman. The beloved captain has been an instrumental part of the franchise since he made his debut in 2004. Wright’s performance on the field and his presence in the clubhouse made him a vital part of the Mets.
Adding veterans in free agency, the Mets did not sign a franchise-caliber to replace Wright. No free agent could replace the hole Wright is leaving in the clubhouse. With plenty of supporting players around younger, homegrown talent, Michael Conforto is under the spotlight.
The pressure is on him now, more than ever, to put together a career year and start transitioning into the type of player Wright was for the Mets. Many even consider him a possible MVP candidate in the near future.
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Conforto, who will be 26 in March, is coming out of a stellar season, posting career-highs in home runs, 28, and runs batted in, 82. In 2017, he was named an All-Star and had an OPS of .939, only playing 109 games due to a dislocated left shoulder.
It was a shame to see him go down in 2017 while he was dominating for the Mets because he was on pace to put up eye-opening numbers. Going into 2019, Conforto looks to keep up his performance but must make improvements in order to do so.
In order for Scooter to turn the corner and become a superstar caliber player, he must limit his strikeouts. 2018 was also a career-high for strikeouts, whiffing 159 times. One stat that stood out is that he struck out 42 times with runners in scoring position. Conforto needs to avoid strikeouts s as much as possible have more of a clutch factor when there are runners on second and third.
As his power numbers are continuing to improve each season, we really want to see Conforto keep his average up as well. The Mets do not want him to be a “pure slugger”, but develop into a pure, all-around hitter. He needs to try to hit the ball the other way when he is down in a count. This will help him reduce strikeouts, and lead to more RBI. He has the offensive potential and I believe what we have seen is far from Conforto’s offensive ceiling.
Another key for Conforto is being able to uphold his defensive success in multiple positions. With new additions like Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie, there is going to be a lot moving around position-wise, both in the infield and outfield. The new infielders bump Jeff McNeil, who had a very impressive rookie season, to left field and will push Conforto over to right field.
Since he made his debut in 2015, Conforto was establishing himself as a consistent left fielder. Conforto has played 65 percent of his games in left field, 27 percent of his games in center field and only 8 percent of his games in right field. He does not have plenty of experience in right but must adapt and improve during Spring Training if he wants to be successful defensively.
This should not be a difficult transition for the 25-year-old. The Mets believe that they are putting each player in the best position in order to succeed by putting McNeil in left, Brandon Nimmo in center and Conforto in right.
After getting a taste of how well Conforto can perform over the last two years, this is his most crucial season yet. The Mets added a lot of veteran bats and strong relievers as an attempt to be a contender.
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Contending is not possible if Conforto does not become the player we know he is extremely capable of being. This is his time to step up, put together a great year, be an All-Star and become a staple in the Mets’ franchise.