Since the reports broke out a few weeks ago that the Mets are planning on keeping Jay Bruce on the roster to start the season, it has left many people around the Mets organization asking the question, “What will Michael Conforto’s role be on the team in 2017?”
It is no secret that keeping Bruce on the roster will only decrease Conforto’s big league playing time in 2017, as the Mets starting outfield on most days will probably be Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, and Bruce from left to right.
At this point, it seems like Mets management is unsure where Conforto will start the 2017 regular season, in the big leagues on the bench, or starting every day in Triple-A Las Vegas. But one thing Mets management should not do with Conforto right now is try to trade him, regardless of the returning price.
Sure Conforto would get much more trade value than either Bruce or Granderson, as Conforto is only 23 years old and isn’t expected to be a free agent until after the 2021 season, but he is expected to be the Mets long term solution in the corner outfield. Even though Conforto had somewhat of a disappointing first full big league season with the Mets last year which included two separate demotions to Triple-A Las Vegas, he has already shown that he has potential to be a great everyday outfielder.
In July 2015, Conforto got called up to the big leagues straight from Double-A Binghamton and excelled with the Mets during the final two months of the regular season and was a huge contributor in the 2015 World Series run. In 56 regular season games in 2015, Conforto batted .270 with nine home runs, 26 RBIs, and a .841 OPS. Then, in the postseason, Conforto went 6 for 30 but hit three home runs including two in Game 4 of the World Series.
Conforto got off to a scorching hot start last season, batting .365 with four home runs, 18 RBIs, and a 1.118 OPS in the month of April. However, things fell off very quickly for Conforto after his raging hot start. It got to the point where the Mets sent him down to Triple-A Las Vegas before the end of June. He did get recalled to the big leagues in late July but saw his playing time diminish as the Mets made the trade to acquire Jay Bruce from the Cincinnati Reds at the trade deadline last season.
It seemed like a combination of not getting enough playing time late in the season and being sent back and forth from New York to Las Vegas a couple different times may have been a cause of his late-season struggles. But nonetheless, Conforto has proven that he is capable and ready to be a starting outfielder at the big league level from his experience in 2015 and his hot start to 2016.
Even though he may be playing a similar role to start 2017, the Mets need to keep Conforto in their organization because it could be possible that the Mets trade away Bruce or Granderson at some point during the season, which could open a spot for Conforto to play every day.
Also, as all Mets fans learned last season, it is not certain that all of the players on the active roster will be healthy. If something were to happen to one of the Mets starting outfielders at any point during the season, the Mets would have a good backup option to put out there in Conforto to hold down the fort before that player comes back from injury.
Conforto will most likely not see that many starts at the big league level this season, but he is almost guaranteed to have a starting spot with the Mets by next season, as both Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce become free agents after this season. That would most likely open the door for Conforto to start just about every day in right field while Cespedes will be in left.
We’ll see how he does in spring training, to see if it wouldn’t hurt the Mets or Conforto to have him start the season in Triple-A Las Vegas to improve on some things such as hitting against left-handed pitching and making the adjustment from playing left field to playing right field.
2017 should be an interesting year for Conforto as he really doesn’t know what his role on this year’s Mets team will be yet, but either way, he should remain in the Mets organization for at least the next few years.