2016 Fantasy Baseball: Breakout Candidate– Michael Conforto
The great thing about sports is their unpredictability. We can crunch numbers and utilize more and more advanced analytics, but that only tells us why someone succeeds as often as they do and how often they will succeed. It won’t tell us exactly when they will succeed or the relative importance of their success. Baseball history is littered with guys that were really not very good in the grand scheme of things, but they succeeded at the right time and became a part of the game’s rich history.
Don Larsen was a career 81-91 pitcher with only 11 wins above replacement according to Fangraphs. His 3.78 career ERA was virtually league average over his many seasons, but he is still the only pitcher in history to pitch a perfect game during the World Series. He did that in 1956. He was 51-51 following that season. This brings us to the next great tradition in sports. Somehow, fans still believe that a moment of brilliance can be the precursor to great things after that.
The truth is that players typically succeed at the same rate they always have over time. This brings us to Michael Conforto. He was the youngest guy to hit two home runs in a World Series game. New York Mets fans would love to believe that his World Series performance is a harbinger of things to come for Conforto. In all likelihood, it was simply a great moment in time that won’t be replicated. That being said, he obviously has the opportunity to put up brilliant numbers based on his rate of success during the regular season.
Where he has been
Late season call ups always cut both ways. On the one hand, you can surmise that there will be growth between the first season and second season. He’s gotten an extended taste of big league pitching (including the postseason) and he can use that knowledge to be even better this season. If you fall into that camp then he could arguably be a guy that hits between 25 and 30 home runs this season as a regular outfielder.
Of course, the flip slide is that pitchers will now be seeing him for a second time and they might be able to exploit his weaknesses after seeing him the first time. None of Conforto’s numbers appear to be much out of context, so luck will not drive him one way or the other. The key will be determining whether the pitchers or Conforto win the battle of adjustment. They will adjust to him and he will adjust to them.
Where he could go
The difference between ZIPS and the others is almost purely playing time. This of course brings us to the Mets particular situation coming into the season. They have Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares as reserves coming into the season. This is a situation that bares watching. Both can play all three outfield positions and both have served as a regular outfielders in the past. One of them may be dealt before the beginning of the season, but if not, it’s hard to see any of the Mets outfielders playing every single day.
If Conforto gets off to a slower start (which all three seem to predict) it would be easy to see one of those other guys playing a little more often in left field. So, while we would all love for the rosy picture to be the one that occurs, the first two projections above are probably a lot more likely in the long run.
A Rosy Picture
Again, the odds are much greater that those first two projections will occur. There is too much depth on the Mets roster to believe that he will get the opportunity to play every day, but these numbers aren’t completely out of the question. The possibility makes him an intriguing fantasy prospect this season. The lesser Conforto is probably a bench piece in three outfielder leagues and a fifth outfielder in five outfielder leagues, but this Conforto is a borderline starter. Like in real baseball, fantasy baseball titles are won when players come out of nowhere to produce out of context numbers. Is Conforto that guy? Anything is possible.