Baseball America’s 2015 midseason scouting report on Michael Conforto — then something of an unknown quantity for a Mets team desperate for runs — lauded his “power-and-patience approach.” At that point, he had had success in Single- and Double-A and improved defensively. The report read, “He’s shown the ability to be selective at the plate, rare for someone his age and for his brief amount of pro experience.”
But that’s all eons ago in the baseball world.
The Mets learned how to score runs and won a pennant in 2015, and Conforto went from unknown quantity to preferred option in the outfield. But something else has changed, too, and it’s something he isn’t all that pleased about.
“I’m just getting away from my approach, going out of the zone,” Conforto said Wednesday after going 0-for-6 with four strikeouts in a 13-inning loss to the White Sox. “You’re not going to have success that way so you’ve just got to get back to what was working and keep working hard.”
Most people would call it growing pains, adjusting to major-league pitching or major-league pitching adjusting to him, but the stark truth is that right now, the Mets and Conforto don’t have the luxury of time to figure stuff out. With Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud on the disabled list and David Wright probably headed in that direction, Conforto is one of the Mets’ main offensive threats (he batted third on Wednesday), and his struggles have been amplified by his team’s inability to score runs.
Going into Friday night’s game against the Marlins, the start of a 10-game road trip, Conforto has walked 17 times and struck out 45. He’s 1-for-22 with 10 strikeouts in his last six games. The Mets were 1-5 in that span and scored a total of 14 runs.
Not to say that this swoon is Conforto’s fault, but with the Mets as hobbled as they are, manager Terry Collins noted, everyone needs to carry his weight.
“You’ve got to have someone step up when somebody else hasn’t,” he said of his team in general. “We had a lot of opportunities to win a number of games on this homestand and couldn’t put a big hit on the board.”
Conforto, whose batting average has dropped to .252, is fully aware of that. The Mets have asked him to grow up quickly his entire career, and so far, he’s lived up to the challenge. That doesn’t mean, however, that he isn’t prone to the pitfalls that ensnare even the most established hitters.
“I think I am pressing a little bit and I need to take a deep breath and go back to what was working,” he said. “That starts with my work and feeling confident.”
Conforto, asked to parse all the various ways he struck out against White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez and Chicago relievers on Wednesday, was open about his shortcomings but determined to stay confident. The game started off badly, he said, when he struck out with runners at the corners and none out in the first, and he never quite changed his approach after that.
“I think maybe I’m not seeing it as well right now,” he said. “You’ve just got to flush it and move on and start fresh on Friday . . . I think you just have to . . . slow it down a little bit and just kind of catch up. It’s easier said than done, but I can tell you that I’m going to work hard and I’m going to make sure that I get back to where I’ve got to be.”
It’s a mature way to look at things, to be sure, and exactly what the Mets need right now from their 23-year-old outfielder.