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Michael Conforto already the apple of Mets' fans eyes

CINCINNATI -- Michael Conforto has seen the pleading, senses the desperation of New York Mets fans begging for some offense to help in their playoff drive. He's on Twitter. He knows.

"They'll include me in their arguments on whether to call me up, so I see all that," he laughed before Sunday's Futures Game, where he went 2-for-2 and threw a runner out at home plate. He tries to ignore it for now but appreciates the attention. "It's a cool thing to hear, to see my name in papers in New York, and it's motivating. It's something that's going to keep me working."

Conforto was the Mets' first-round pick last year out of Oregon State, 10th overall. He's a good hitting outfielder with a good eye at the plate. He began 2015 at Class A St. Lucie and hit .283/.350/.462 before getting called up to Double-A Binghamton, where he's hitting .312/.394/.475 with three home runs in 37 games. While he's certainly on the fast track to the majors, a promotion right now would be an aggressive move for a player with such little experience in the upper minors and whose power is still developing. Still, Mets fans see an outfield that is hitting a collective .242/.300/.379, ranking 26th in the majors in wOBA. Overall, the Mets are 28th in the majors in runs per game.

So, yes, Mets fans want some offense. "I want to go there and I want to play well and get there as quickly as I can," he said. "I can't make the decision, so all I can do is work hard in the minor leagues and make myself better."

Conforto's game relies on an all-fields approach. "I'm a patient but aggressive hitter," he says. "I know that kind of contradicts itself. I like to be aggressive on mistake pitches. Fastballs, I'll pick a side of the plate and if I get a fastball on that side I like to be aggressive. But patient in knowing when I'm getting pitched around or if a pitcher makes a good pitch, give him that one. With one or two strikes, understand that eventually I'll get a mistake pitch and be ready for it. I'll take my walks when I can and I think the walks are also a product of being aggressive. You kind of have to have that balance."

When he arrived at Oregon State, Conforto says he was far from a polished hitter. His athleticism and natural ability carried him there but he quickly realized facing college pitching was a difficult challenge. He credits Oregon State coaches Pat Casey and Pat Bailey with making him a smarter player and becoming more of a student of the game.

"I went through a learning curve," he explained. "I showed up there for fall ball and struck out a lot, felt like I wasn't good enough. In the spring, I didn't start the first three games, went out there and hit a home run in my second at-bat, kept working, and over the years you can see that approach: Putting more balls in play, getting more hits, my on-base percentage was going up."

As a freshman, he had a ratio of 1.54 strikeouts for every walk. As a sophomore, it was 1.15. As a junior, he walked 55 times and struck out 38 times. His combined totals in the minors are 36 walks and 58 strikeouts. Scouts project a player who hits for average and gets on base. The power is the big question mark. Conforto is listed at 6-foot-1, although that's a little generous.

He's been playing left field in Double-A, so you can understand why Mets fans want him up: In the past eight games, with Michael Cuddyer battling a knee injury (not to mention age), the Mets have started five different left fielders: Cuddyer, Eric Campbell, John Mayberry Jr., Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Darrell Ceciliani. That's no way to go about challenging the Nationals for the NL East title (the Mets started Sunday just two games back), although Nieuwenhuis did hit three home runs on Sunday. The Mets have been quiet on a timetable for Conforto. Maybe they won't call him up just yet, but don't be surprised if he's playing left field in September.