The debut of the New York Mets left-hander P.J. Conlon is finally here. After a week of will-he, won’t-he with Jacob deGrom’s elbow, the Mets decided to put him on the DL. The 24-year-old Conlon will take his spot in the rotation Monday against the Cincinnati Reds.
Conlon is out of the University of San Diego, where he capped off a nice career with a big 2015 season. The southpaw posted a 6-4 record behind a 2.17 ERA with a career-best 91 innings pitched, 82 strikeouts and 0.97 WHIP. The Mets liked what they saw in the lefty, despite not having the traditional pitcher’s frame standing at just 5-foot-11. They took Conlon in the 15th round of the 2015 MLB Draft.
After just two full-seasons in the minors, Conlon is making his big-league debut. Here’s what you should know.
Conlon blew up on the scene
If you have followed Conlon from Day 1, it may be surprising that it took this long for his debut. He opened his career in the New York-Penn League where he tossed his first 17 innings of pro ball without allowing a run. He also posted an insane 25-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a bit uncharacteristic as Conlon has never been a strikeout-per-inning type of guy.
He built on that success in 2016, splitting his time in Columbia of the South Atlantic League and St. Lucie in the Florida State League. He was equally dominant at both stops, pitching to a combined 12-2 record with a stingy 1.65 ERA and microscopic 0.96 WHIP. He struck out 112 and walked 24 in 142 innings, so while he doesn’t have the overwhelming stuff to overpower hitters, he also keeps himself out of trouble with less than two walks per nine. His performance earned him the Mets 2016 MiLB pitcher of the year honors.
The lefty has modest stuff
Conlon has advanced up the ladder limiting runs despite not having a single elite pitch. As already discussed, his control of the strike zone, deceptive release, and ability to keep free passes at a minimum are his calling card.
His fastball has sink sitting in the high-80s while touching the low-90s when he reaches back. Earlier in his pro-career, he seemed to be a primarily ground ball pitcher, but that has leveled out in the FSL and High-A. His changeup is a plus-offering and arguably his best pitch thanks to that deceptive delivery. He has a fringe curveball that seems to be able to get hitters to chase although not with the frequency he would like.
Here’s a look at the release from NJ.com and why hitters may have a tough time picking up the ball. He seems to keep that left arm back there a bit longer, but fires it forward consistently.
Conlon is Irish, and apparently not many MLB pitchers are
A completely random tidbit, but interesting nonetheless. Per the SNY Mets Blog will be the first Irish-born player in Major League Baseball since 1945. The last Irish-born player in the bigs was the Washington Senators Joe Cleary. He pitched just one-third of an inning, allowing seven runs on five hits and walking three to end his career with a 189.00 ERA. On a positive note, his lone big-league out recorded was a strikeout.
UPDATE: Conlon is NOT from Ireland
As our commenter TM points out below, Belfast, although the capital of Northern Ireland, is actually in the United Kingdom. That said, it looks like the nationality of Northern Ireland is complex, as people identify as being both English and Irish obviously depending on their lineage. So Conlon may, in fact, be of Irish descent, but he resided in the UK before leaving for the States (just wanted to clear this up). BBC points out that Conlon is the first player from Belfast since Harry McIlveen played in the MLB in 1909. See, you don’t just get baseball knowledge here at Minor League Ball, but geography as well.