The New York Mets finally reached an agreement with their 2014 first-round draft pick, Michael Conforto. The left-handed hitting outfielder signed off on a $2.97 million bonus. According to Jon Heyman of CBS, and many other “baseball insiders”, Conforto is expected to rise quickly through the Mets’ system. If so, it would be a departure from the norm for the Mets organization under Sandy Alderson.
Then again, drafting Conforto in the first round was already a change for Alderson and his draft guru, Paul DePodesta. The Oregon State alum was the first college player selected in the first round by the current front office. In drafts past, they’ve concentrated on finding high-upside high school players like Brandon Nimmo, Gavin Cecchini and Dominic Smith. The focus was always on rebuilding the farm system. The selection (and now signing) of Conforto signals a change in philosophy. They picked the player who could help them the fastest.
Conforto was considered the most polished hitter of the 2014 draft. Alderson and Co. no doubt envision him coming to the majors — perhaps as soon as 2016 — and plugging the gap in left field. Right now, the Mets’ left field situation is like that of someone suffering from dehydration in the ocean — players, players everywhere, but not a one to hold down left field for more than one game at a time.
Conforto, like any draft pick, is no sure thing. Even a player who is purported to be as polished as he can be a miss in major leagues. There’s always an element of luck involved in the MLB draft, perhaps more than any other sport. Every player drafted has to get through a few years of minor league ball, and even then, his team may not have a clear picture of who he is.
The Mets hope they know what they have in Conforto. Now that he’s ready to hit the field running, they’ll hope he never stops. Expect the Mets to have a similar philosophy in next year’s draft as they transition out of rebuilding mode.