Michael Conforto likely to get center-field, first-base exposure

The Mets expect Michael Conforto to see time in center field and even at first base in spring training. Eric Espada/Getty Images

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Michael Conforto's 2017 role appears highly contingent upon whether Yoenis Cespedes departs as a free agent or the New York Mets otherwise shed an outfielder.

Regardless, look for Conforto to get action in center field and even at first base during spring training.

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson suggested Conforto figures "prominently" into the club's plans for next season, even if the precise role remains unclear.

“I think one of the things that would be important going into 2017, as I think it was going into 2016, is maximizing the versatility of our players,” Alderson said. “With the luxury of spring training, we have the ability to experiment with quite a bit of that.”

Alderson said Cespedes' days as a center fielder are over if he returns, because of Cespedes’ strong preference to play left field. That would limit Conforto's avenue to play the corner outfield spots.

And if Cespedes departs, someone has to play center field from among Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson and Conforto -- except on the days when Juan Lagares starts.

“Conceivably, he could fit in center field,” Alderson said about Conforto. “He played there both at the major league level and the minor league level periodically. I think we were pleasantly surprised at how he adapted to that position. He’s an outstanding athlete. While he may not have the classic center-field profile, there have been a lot of successful center fielders who didn’t have that profile. Years ago we had one in Oakland, Dave Henderson, who was a terrific center fielder.”

Conforto won’t be playing winter ball, however, although the team floated the idea.