Through the extremely small sample size that is six games into the 2016 season, the New York Mets offense is struggling.
One player who is not struggling is Michael Conforto, and that is a sight Mets fans should get used to.
In this young season, he has the third-highest batting average at .294, which is the highest among those who have played all six games. His .294 average is paired with a .455 on-base percentage, a .412 slugging percentage and a 140 wRC+. His walk rate is up 10 percent and his strikeout rate is down seven percent, but those are very likely to even out throughout the course of the season.
These small sample size numbers are in line with his career (major and minor league) averages. In Low-A in 2014, Conforto had a slash line of .331/.403/.448, three home runs, 19 RBIs, and a 153 wRC+ in 42 games. A year later, he split time between High-A (.283/.350/.462, 7 home runs, 28 RBIs, 141 wRC+ in 46 games), Double-A (.312/.396/.503, 5 home runs, 26 RBIs, 160 wRC+ in 45 games), and the major leagues (.270/.335/.506, 9 home runs, 26 RBIs, 134 wRC+ in 56 games). He also had an excellent World Series, hitting .333 (5-for-15) with a .313 on-base percentage, .733 slugging percentage, two home runs, and four RBIs, with both home runs coming in Game 3.
Conforto also had excellent quality of contact stats in 2015, with 40.9 percent hard-hit rate (which is excellent), a 42.3 percent medium-hit rate (also excellent), and a 16.8 percent soft-hit rate (considered great); he hits the ball at hard and medium speeds for the vast majority of his at-bats, which is more likely to lead to more hits. For perspective, the league averages for quality of contact in 2015 were 28.8 percent hard, 52.5 percent medium, and 18.6 percent soft; he was better than the league average across the board, since it is better it have a higher hard percentage and lower medium and soft percentages (the Fangraphs page is here).
Conforto is an incredibly consistent hitter; the 23-year-old has done it at every level of professional baseball that he has been in, and he started right where he left off in 2015. He has contributed at the plate, and in the field as well.
In the 424.2 innings played in left field in his major-league career, Conforto has a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. His 7.5 career UZR is considered between above average and great, according to Fangraphs.
Conforto’s recent play and his very high ceiling present an interesting conundrum for manager Terry Collins in the crowded outfield that the Mets have. Currently, Conforto is sitting against left-handed starters, although (in another extremely small sample size) he has handled lefties well. In 17 at-bats against left-handed pitching in his major-league career, he has a slash line of .294/.333/.294 (he has five hits, all which are singles), with a wRC+ of 76. He can hit lefties, but he has nothing but singles against them.
However, if he continues his recent play and continues to be a main cog in the offense, it is possible that he gets snuck in the lineup more against left-handed pitching. Curtis Granderson is 35 years old and has a career slash line of .224/.296/.398 with an 87 wRC+ against lefties. Last year he struggled particularly badly against left-handed pitching, with a line of .183/.273/.286 with a 61 wRC+. It would not be surprising to see Conforto see some time in right field this year, a place where he has said he’s comfortable, just to get him in the lineup while giving Granderson a rest and sheltering him from left-handers. He was the designated hitter against the Kansas City Royals in the opening series this year, so it is fair to expect him to DH whenever the time arises, as well.
Michael Conforto is going to be a mainstay in the Mets lineup for a long time. He is a well-above-average hitter that has some power, and he is underrated in left-field. His ceiling his extremely high, but do not be surprised if Michael Conforto makes a push to be one of the best hitters in the Mets lineup by the time the season ends, if he is not considered one already.