New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto was not expected to even be with the team this early in the regular season.
Good thing he is, though.
While they might not be consistent in terms of success on the field, the Mets sure do know how to make their supporters uneasy even if it’s only 19 games into the season.
Like a nightmarish repeat of last year, injuries have swept through and decimated New York’s roster.
The laundry list includes:
Jacob deGrom: stiff neck (day-to-day)
Yoenis Cespedes: sore hamstring (day-to-day)
Wilmer Flores: infection (10-day DL)
Lucas Duda: hyperextended left elbow (10-day DL)
Steven Matz: flexor tendon strain (10-day DL)
Seth Lugo: UCL tear (10-day DL)
It has left manager Terry Collins patching together a lineup in April that has not been competitive against its NL East counterparts.
And it left the door open for Conforto to make the team.
The 24-year-old trudged through a horrendous sophomore campaign in 2016 that called his immediate MLB career into question.
After batting .270 with nine home runs and 26 RBI in 56 games during his rookie year, Conforto batted .220 (67-304) and was optioned to triple-A Las Vegas last season.
A strong spring training was not enough to ease concerns surrounding him as Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo were expected to make the club over him. But last-minute injuries (surprise, surprise) saw him make the Opening Day roster.
New York’s offense has performed like Conforto did last season, especially as of late.
The Washington Nationals came into Citi Field and swept the Mets this weekend, which is concerning considering this is the team New York was expected to challenge for the division title.
The offense scored three runs or fewer in each game and has averaged just 2.8 runs per night over its last nine. The average among MLB teams this season is 4.21 runs per game.
They also rank 29th in the league with a .210 team batting average.
Conforto, who has worked his way into a more prominent role with the club thanks to those injuries, has not been the problem.
In 16 games, he is batting .361 (13-36) with four home runs and eight RBI.
He’s hit home runs in two of his last three games and was the lone positive to take out of the Mets’ 6-3 loss to the Nationals on Sunday as he went 3-for-4, half of his team’s hits, with a solo home run.
The rest of the Mets’ outfield, including Cespedes, Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson and Lagares is hitting just .189 this season.
New York doesn’t have much time to mess around if they want to make the postseason for a third-straight season. They are already 5.5 games back of the Nationals and are off to their worst start since 2011.
If Conforto can provide a spark, even if it comes at the expense of one of the veterans, the Mets have to play him as much as possible.