In what appears to be one of their strongest drafts in recent memory, the Giants have added yet another prospect to their class in an extremely unconventional way.
Just prior to tonight’s game versus the Indians, Fox Sports Senior Baseball Writer Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Giants had come to terms with right-handed pitcher Jack Conlon, who was originally drafted by the Orioles in the 4th round in last month’s draft.
The Orioles, however, were concerned with Conlon’s post-draft physical, so much so that they didn’t offer him a contract, let alone the 40% of the total slot value ($409K) that would have ensured the Orioles a compensation pick in next years draft. It had previously been reported that Conlon was seeking a signing bonus of $1 million, so perhaps it wasn’t even worth the hassle or gamble for the Orioles to pursue. As a result, Conlon became a free-agent, and pending a Giants physical, will join fellow draft picks Heliot Ramos and Jacob Gonzalez in their quest to add impact playerss to the Giants depleted minor-league system.
It’s important to note that Conlon DID NOT fail his physical, rather the Orioles believed Conlon’s long-term health was not worth the minimum $164,000 investment. According to Mark Brown of CamdenChat.com, this is “the third time since the 2012 draft that they will fail to sign one of their picks from the top ten rounds”, suggesting that the Orioles may be more strict with their physicals than other clubs.
Background on Conlon
Primary Position: RH-SP
School/Location: Clements, Sugar Land, TX
Scouting Report (From Baseball America)
His fastball works consistently in the low 90s and touches 95 mph and Conlon has feel for a sharp slider that competes in the strike zone. He’s flashes some feel for a changeup, but the pitch is far from what it could be with more reps. Conlon is praised for his attitude and approach to the game, as well as his work ethic and desire to improve. He has the arm speed and the frame to eventually sit in the mid 90s and touch higher.
Straight 108’s Take
It’s hard to know exactly what to make of Conlon’s health concerns, but assuming the Giants come to an agreement with Conlon, his long-term health likely isn’t in question. Based on my research, his short-term impact is irrelevant as he’s viewed as more of a project as this point than a finished product, suggesting at least he’s 4-6 years from sniffing AT&T Park.
In watching video of Conlon, there are absolutely things to like, however there’s one big red flag I noticed that is common amongst hard throwing high school pitchers.
The first thing I noticed about Conlon in addition to his size, is his arm speed. Typically, big pitchers like Conlon generate high velocity through a long, loopy arm action. Conlon, however, possesses a rather compact delivery with quick arm speed.
The problem, however, lies in the fact that despite his size and arm speed (suggesting that high-velocity shouldn’t be difficult for him to achieve), he’s developed a “max-effort” delivery, meaning that he throws as hard as he can with every pitch. A current Dodgers scout and longtime pitching coach who I coached with for two seasons always told me that a pitcher’s hat was a telltale sign in a max-effort/overthrow situation. If we look at Conlon’s warm up pitches from last year’s Under Armour All-America game, we see how violent his delivery is.
Unfortunately, this is common throughout high school baseball as both college and MLB scouts put a premium on velocity, resulting in pitchers prioritizing that over control and pitchability. The constant max-effort strain Conlon exerts with every pitch is absolutely a cause for concern, and something I’m sure the Giants will work to correct, especially considering his size and arm talent to begin with.
If we compare Conlon’s delivery with another big pitcher, Jeff Samardzija (6’5”, 225), the difference in arm-strain and consistency becomes extremely clear.
In the photo, both motions are stopped as the stride foot plants and the arm begins to explode forward. On the left, you can see Conlon’s head pulling off to the 1st base side, a clear tell that he’s trying to maximize velocity. As a result, his delivery becomes disconnected and the stress of the throwing motion centers on his shoulder. Additionally, Conlon’s balance point and ability to pick up his target are compromised, as his ability to consistently repeat a fluid delivery.
Samardzija, on the other hand, is a perfect representation of proper balance and mechanics. His eyes and chest are set on target with a slight bend in his front knee with which to catapult off of. His elbow is perfectly in line with his shoulder-level, making the entire process strain-free, powerful, and repeatable.
From a single picture, you can see why proper mechanics are so important, especially to an 18-year-old kid who’s likely years away from fully developing physically.
Over the long term, if the Giants and their minor-league pitching coordinators can convince Conlon to pitch under control, that will be a significant 1st step into deepening an already strong 2017 draft class for the San Francisco Giants.