Mets sign top draft pick, OF Michael Conforto

 

AP Sports Writer

Michael Conforto already has an athletic pedigree and a Big Apple appetite. The New York Mets think he's got a swing tailored to Citi Field, too.

Selected 10th overall in last month's draft, Conforto signed with the Mets on Friday and was introduced at a news conference. The 21-year-old outfielder from Oregon State received a $2,970,800 bonus — the assigned value for his draft slot.

Wearing No. 88, Conforto took batting practice on the field with the big league team before the opener of a three-game series against Miami. The Mets said he will start his professional career with Class A Brooklyn in the short-season New York-Penn League.

"There's no feeling like it," Conforto said. "On the same field as people you used to idolize, it's a very, very cool feeling. I'm definitely cherishing this day."

Conforto batted .345 with seven home runs and 56 RBIs in 59 games this year during his junior season with the Beavers. He was the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year for the second straight season and the first three-time All-American in school history. He also is a finalist for the Dick Howser Trophy, given to the top college player in the United States, and the Golden Spikes Award, presented to the best amateur player in the country.

Looking to complement their stable of touted young arms, the Mets have drafted position players with their past four first-round picks. They also grabbed promising catcher Kevin Plawecki at No. 35 overall in 2012.

Amateur scouting director Tommy Tanous and the Mets like Conforto's plate discipline and left-handed stroke. They think his gap-to-gap approach suits their spacious ballpark.

The 6-foot-2, 217-pound Conforto had a .504 on-base percentage this season, setting a school record with 55 walks, and a .547 slugging percentage. He batted .340 for his college career with 31 home runs and 179 RBIs in 182 games.

"Michael was obviously very highly rated throughout baseball and extraordinarily high on our draft board. We were concerned that he might not be available to us at 10. Ecstatic that he was," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "From our point of view, his outstanding on-base approach as well as his left-handed swing and the power potential that he brings, sort of a natural fit for our organization and this ballpark."

Still, it took a while for the Mets to get him signed. Represented by agent Scott Boras, Conforto completed his deal a week before the deadline for draftees who have not exhausted their college eligibility.

"The one thing I would address at the outset, however, is the question of why it took so long," Alderson said. "And I think you only need to look at me on this end of the table and Scott Boras on the other end of the table to know that we're probably two of the more stubborn people in the game, and that whatever delay occurred had absolutely nothing to do with Michael."

Conforto grew up in a Seattle suburb emulating Ken Griffey Jr.'s sweet swing.

His mother, Tracie, was a gold medalist in solo and duet synchronized swimming in the 1984 Olympics and won silver in 1988. His father, Mike, played linebacker at Penn State under coach Joe Paterno in the late 1970s.

On draft night, Conforto said his father's bad knees were one reason he chose baseball over football after he was a multisport star at Redmond High School in Washington.

"If he's as good as everybody tells me, one of these days he's going to make a fortune. And that's because of the game of baseball," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I'm anxious to see him play. I hope I get a chance to."

Conforto said he's enjoyed visiting the Freedom Tower and the Empire State Building during his first trip to New York. He and his father haven't missed a meal, either.

"We've been eating a whole lot since we got here. We're Italian, and we've had some really good Italian food. Usually you can only get that from family back home," Conforto said. "I'm having a great time."

Or, as his dad put it: "We've been eating our way through the city."

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