Throughout the 2018/2019 offseason, Marlin Maniac will devote one article each for every player who appeared in the Miami Marlins system for the 2018 season. Every. Single. Player. This is Part 41 of 286. Stay tuned.
Adam Conley is a 6’3″, 200 lb. left-handed pitcher from Olympia, WA. He’s the sixth major leaguer from Olympia, led most notably by former LF Geoff Jenkins. Born on May 24th, 1990, Conley was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 32nd round of the 2008 MLB Amateur Entry Draft, with the 966th pick.
Conley didn’t sign with the Twins, electing instead to play Division I NCAA ball for Washington State. In three seasons between the rotation and the bullpen, he racked up a 12-12 record with 13 saves, a 3.88 ERA, and 156 strikeouts in 212 innings. With that experience under his belt, the Florida Marlins chose him in the second round of the 2011 draft, with the 72nd overall selection.
38 percent of the “72 club” have eventually reached the major leagues. The group is led by several notable names. Ray Lankford (1987, St. Louis Cardinals, 38.2 career WAR), Dan Haren (2001, Cardinals, 35.0 WAR), Mike Greenwell (1982, Boston Red Sox (25.8 WAR), Shane Reynolds (1989, Houston Astros, 17.8 WAR), Charlie Blackmon (2008, Colorado Rockies, 16.1 WAR), Aaron Boone (1994, Cincinnati Reds, 13.5 WAR), and Rick Ankiel (1997, Cardinals, 8.9 WAR) were all chosen with the 72nd pick.
Conley signed with the Marlins for a $625,000 bonus, and reported to the GCL Marlins, in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League for a quick two inning look in 2011. In 2012, he started 14 games for the single-A level Greensboro Grasshoppers in the South Atlantic League (SAL), and put up a 7-3 record with a 2.78 ERA, 84 K’s in 74 innings, and a 1.10 WHIP. That performance put Conley on a fast-track for promotion to the high-A Jupiter Hammerheads, in the Florida State League. He continued to perform, going 4-2 with a 4.44 ERA in 52 2/3 innings over 12 starts, with 51 K’s and a 1.48 WHIP. Conley was named to both the SAL mid-season all-star team and the 2012 Miami Marlins MILB.com organization all-star team.
2013 would see Conley spend his entire campaign at the double-A level with the Jacksonville Suns, in the Southern League. He made 25 starts, striking out 129 batters in 138 2/3 frames, with an 11-7 record and a 3.25 ERA. Ranked as the Marlins #10 prospect, the Southern League named him to their mid-season all-star team.
In 2014, Conley spent three months on the disabled list in total, half each of May and June and all of August and September. In between all of that, he made 11 starts for the New Orleans Zephyrs, going 3-5 with a 6.00 ERA and 48 K’s in 60 innings.
Conley made the PCL All-Star team as a starting pitcher for going 9-3 with a 2.52 ERA over 18 starts in 2015. He also made his major league debut for the Miami Marlins on June 10th. It didn’t take long for him to get his first win, after Conley started just a day later against the Cincinnati Reds. He allowed two runs in five innings, and went on to go 4-1 in 11 starts and four relief appearances at baseball’s top level. He struck out 59 in 67 frames, and earned a 3.76 ERA. His best of the season was on September 16th, when he whiffed six in seven shutout innings, allowing three hits in a 6-0 victory against the New York Mets.
2016 would see Conley spend his entire campaign at the major league level with the Marlins, and put up an 8-6 record with a 3.85 ERA and 124 K’s in 133 innings. On April 29th, he pitched 7 2/3 innings of no-hit ball in an eventual 6-3 win against the Milwaukee Brewers. His overall 4.20 FIP was suggestive of some help from the fielding corps, but it still marked his most complete season (until 2018, but more on that in a second).
2017 would see Conley lose something in the translation. He was 8-8 over 20 starts for the Marlins, with a 6.14 ERA and a slightly better 5.62 FIP, but something was off. Opponents were barreling 8.2 percent of his batted balls, with a .360 WOBA and a .487 XSLG, all metrics ranking in the bottom 10 percent of the National League.
This season, Conley began the campaign at the triple-A level, with the New Orleans Baby Cakes. Over his first three starts, he allowed opponents a 1.287 OPS and a 19.64 ERA in 7 1/3 innings. Things were looking pretty grim.
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Conley then seemed to click with something, and over his next five AAA starts held batters to a 1.93 ERA and a .208 average. Miami called him up on May 18th, intending to use him out of the bullpen.
Conley has thrived in relief, collecting a 1.086 WHIP, a 3.60 FIP, and just 6.6 H/9 allowed. In 52 trips out of the pen, he struck out 50 in 50 2/3 innings, allowing 37 hits and an opposing slash of .207/.279/.363. More telling, his fastball velocity went from an average of just under 90 MPH in 2017 to 95.2 MPH this season. On July 8th, in a 10-2 win over the Washington Nationals, he struck out four over two near-perfect innings (Evan Turner reached on a strikeout/passed ball with two out in the sixth).
Conley was long expected to positively impact the Miami Marlins rotation, but by the end of this season was part of the end-game solution, along with Drew Steckenrider. Conley is pre-arbitration eligible, and may file following the 2019 season. Expect Conley to challenge for the closer role.
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