One of the major storylines to watch on the New York Mets in the second half is whether or not Michael Conforto bounces back.
While most of the talk around the New York Mets will be around which people they trade in the next two weeks, there is one player that the team needs to bounce back in the second half for both the short and long-term future of this franchise. That player is outfielder Michael Conforto.
Conforto came back less than a week into the season from shoulder surgery and he has not been a player that has helped the offense at all. In 85 games, he has a slash line of .216/.344/.366 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs. It came to a point during this month where the Mets were starting journeyman Ty Kelly in left instead of Conforto.
It is important to remember that Conforto is only 25-years old, but there were many signs of concern in the first half. For one, he has had a sub .200 batting average in each of the last two months and he has not hit higher than .256 in a given month. So far, his OPS is .577 in July, which is 124 points lower than it was in June (.701).
Another concern is that he is starting to become a high strikeout guy. Strikeouts aren’t the worst thing in baseball in 2018. With that being said, his strikeout percentage is at 24.9 percent (FanGraphs). His 86 K’s for the season are the second most on the team behind Brandon Nimmo (90).
In 2018, Conforto has had a tough time hitting offspeed pitches. He has four home runs against four-seam fastballs, but he is hitting .186 or lower against the changeup, slider, and curveball this year. In fact, he has only one extra-base hit against the breaking ball this year with ten strikeouts. Both of these stats are courtesy of Brooks Baseball.
At the same time, it is important to note that Conforto is in the top ten in the National League in walks (53). With that being said, he has to find a way to make more contact to help an offense that has relied a lot on the home run ball to their own detriment this season.
If you look at the New York Mets going forward, Conforto is one of those players that the team needs to be a centerpiece for the next few years. They need him to be a key piece that allows the rebuilding process to move quickly as he looks to regain the form that he had when he hit 27 home runs in 2017.
With Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce battling injuries and getting older, New York needs an outfield of Nimmo and Conforto to bounce back the offense and give run support to the starting pitchers that remain here at the deadline or by the beginning of next season.
So, while Conforto is seeing more pitches per plate appearance than at any point in his career (4.29), he needs to turn those pitches into hits in the second half of the season. It won’t lead to a playoff appearance, but it will make the front office and the fans feel more certain that Conforto can be a focal point of the offense in the future.