Entering this season, New York Mets’ fans were thrilled that the team managed to re-sign star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a four year contract. Cespedes had blossomed since coming to Queens in a mid-season trade two years ago, slugging 48 homers and driving in 130 runs in just over a year and a half, so having him for four more years should have been key to extending the Mets’ championship window. Things haven’t gone according to plan, as a major leg injury has ruined Cespedes’ season, causing him to miss almost two months of action. When healthy, Cespedes has hit only 10 homers and driven in 27 runs, allowing other players to emerge and stake their claim to being the best player on the team. The man who regularly plays on Cespedes’ right has done just that.
Conforto has always had a world of potential, which he displayed in a strong rookie season two years ago that was capped by a multi-homer game in Game 4 of the World Series. Things looked to be trending upward for Conforto in April of 2016, when he was promoted to the three spot in the lineup and hit .365, but a massive slump ruined his sophomore season. Conforto came into the season needing to fight for playing time with the Mets’ starting outfield set, and he went on to have a strong spring. An injury to Juan Lagares late in camp allowed Conforto to make the Opening Day roster, and Cespedes’ injury created regular playing time for Conforto. Conforto has taken full advantage of the opportunity and has emerged as a bright young offensive superstar, something the Mets haven’t seen emerge from their farm system since David Wright and Jose Reyes.
In 289 at bats this season, Conforto is batting .291 and has already set career highs in home runs (21) and RBI’s (55) with over two months to go. Conforto has also posted an outstanding OPS (on base plus slugging) of .979, which is the eighth best mark in the major leagues. The Mets have also benefited from Conforto’s improved defense, including three outfield assists and this tremendous catch in Seattle yesterday.
The best thing for the Mets is that Conforto is only 24 years old, so he hasn’t even come close to entering his prime yet. Conforto and Cespedes should team up to anchor the Mets’ lineup for years to come, and he doesn’t even need to be platooned anymore, hitting .254 with five homers and 11 RBI’s in just 71 at bats against left handed pitching this season. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when Conforto emerged as the Mets’ best player, but this weekend in Seattle may well be his coming out party.