Published on December 29th, 2015 | by Josh Chapdelaine6
In Michael Conforto, the Mets have replaced Yoénis Cespdes
The New York Mets will look to 23-year-old outfielder Michael Conforto to replace Yoénis Cespedes’ production in 2016.
Conforto batted .270/.335/.506 in 56 major-league games during his rookie season. After Conforto hit .200 over his first 48 plate appearances, he produced a .291 batting average in his final 146 regular season plate appearances. Despite a sluggish start, he finished sixth among MLB rookies in slugging percentage. Steamer projects the 2014 first-round draft selection will play in 135 games, bat .260/.321/.435 with 19 home runs and produce 2.3 fWAR.
The Mets will field an outfield of Michael Conforto in left field, a platoon of Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares in center field, and Curtis Granderson in right field. Conforto projects as the Mets’ everyday left fielder, but the team was reluctant to play Conforto against left-handed pitching in 2015 — he accumulated only 15 plate appearances against southpaws last season. He will presumably see an increased workload against left-handed pitching in 2016, but the Mets are still in the market for a supplementary outfielder that can spell Conforto against tough lefties.
Conforto’s nine home runs project to 26 over 162 games and 2.1 fWAR projects to 6.1, All-Star level production. Overall, he has the potential to not only equal Cespedes’ production over a full season, but perhaps surpass it with above-average defense. Though he was rated as an above-average defender in 2015, his major-league playing sample is not yet sufficient enough to create an accurate defensive profile.
Cespedes is projected to play in 146 games, bat .266/.312/.473 and produce 3.1 fWAR with 27 home runs, according to Steamer. The 30-year-old hit a career-high 35 home runs in 2015, including a torrid 17 during the season’s final two months after being dealt from Detroit to New York. Cespedes’ offensive surge helped lead the Mets to their first National League East crown since 2006, but his spike was unlike any other he had ever produced. His flaws — defensively, high strikeout percentage and low on-base percentage — stand out, but his ability to carry an offense is also well documented.
Michael Conforto will earn $500,000 in 2016, while Cespedes is seeking a long term contract valued annually between $20-25 million. If the Mets can add one-to-two additional wins through supplemental free agent signings, the team will have successfully replaced Cespedes’ production while avoiding paying Cespedes during his age 33-35 seasons, a time when the team will need to focus on impending free agency and rising salaries for its starting pitchers.
The Mets can be both economical and create a perennial contender — the two are not mutually exclusive. In Conforto, the Mets have a prodigal outfielder who will help adequately replace Cespedes.
Photo credit: Michael G. Baron