24. New York Mets (31–37, minus-28, LT: 25)
You could read a good book (or 12) in the time it took you to go over every Mets injury this season. Losing star players like Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes for extended stretches is a great way to torpedo a team’s playoff hopes. Losing talented complementary players like Jeurys Familia, Neil Walker, and most recently Matt Harvey (again) and Juan Lagares (again) only makes matters worse. Still, in a lost season for Mets, the recent back injury suffered by Michael Conforto carried an extra level of cruelty.
Conforto’s been the biggest bright spot for an otherwise miserable 2017 Mets squad...by far. After a disappointing 2016 campaign that dulled the impact of 56 exciting games in a flashy 2015 rookie season, Conforto’s broken out in a big way this year, hitting .289/.410/.569, and even playing passable defense in center field, a position the Mets were reluctant to give him until injuries forced their hand. Those numbers come despite a recent two-week rough patch in which Conforto hit just .176 with no home runs. Mets fans have to hope this recent slump is just the byproduct of that back injury, and that Conforto’s health problems don’t spiral into disaster, the way they have time and time again with many of his teammates lately.
Even with that recent downturn, Conforto’s indicators are all pointing in an optimistic direction. He’s made hard contact more often than all but four other NL hitters this year (trailing stars like Paul Goldschmidt and Corey Seager). He also ranks among the league leaders in line-drive percentage, on-base percentage, and slugging. He’s done all that despite playing in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball.
The Mets might still need to fire their entire training staff or stage an exorcism if they hope to contend again in 2018 and beyond. But if the end result of this season is a young, lefty-swinging star to complement the team’s stable of young, very-good-when-healthy pitchers, maybe 2017 won’t look so bad in retrospect.