The Jays Journal staff returns with our yearly Top 30 prospect rankings. The #13 spot goes to an outfielder, Griffin Conine.
Name: Griffin Conine
Position: Right Field Age: 22
Height: 6’1” Weight: 200 lbs
Throws: Right Bats: Left
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd round of MLB’s 2018 June Amateur Draft
2019 Organization Level: A ETA: 2022
Griffin Conine is the son of Jeff Conine, who played 17 seasons in the Major Leagues. Griffin had a three-year career at Duke, where he posted a 0.403 OBP and 0.933 OPS in 631 plate appearances. In 2016, Conine had 250 plate appearances in the Northwoods League, a collegiate summer baseball league, and produced a 0.976 OPS. In 2017, he played in the Cape Cod Baseball League (“CCBL”) and recorded a 0.943 OPS in 187 plate appearances; the CCBL is also a summer baseball league for collegiate players. In both his collegiate and summer-league careers, Conine was younger than the weighted-average age of the respective competition.
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After he was selected by the Blue Jays, Conine played two games in rookie ball and 55 games in the Northwest League for the Vancouver Canadians, a Class A short-season minor league club. For the Canadians, he produced a pedestrian 0.736 OPS.
Following the 2018 season, it was announced that Conine had tested positive for a banned substance (a stimulant known as Ritalin) and was suspended for the first 50 games of the 2019 season.
In 2019, he produced a 0.946 OPS, with a 35.9% K%, in 348 plate appearances for Lansing in Low-A ball. Table 1 contains additional data.
It is anticipated that Conine will start the 2020 season in AA.
John Lott noted the following about Conine in an August 8, 2019 piece in The Athletic.
"“The way the ball comes off the bat – you hear it all the time – it’s just different,” Lansing manager Dallas McPherson said before his team played the Lake County Captains here last week. “The guy’s got elite bat speed. The exit velo and all the numbers show those things. Power numbers are going to be a big thing for him.”"
Baseball America, in their report that was written after the 2018 season, stated the following on the subject of Conine’s hitting:
"Conine’s best tool is his plus power, which he generates with an impressive combination of strength and bat speed. Conine’s power has shown up in games, but his elevated swing-and-miss rate raised red flags in college. Conine didn’t do anything to quiet those concerns in pro ball after striking out in 27 percent of his plate appearances with short-season Vancouver. Conine isn’t a free-swinger, but he will have to make an adjustment to swing at better pitches to keep his whiffs to a reasonable level."
MLB Pipeline echoed Baseball America’s assessment. (Note that the MLB Pipeline comments and grades were extracted from their 2019 report; the 2020 report is not currently available).
"He’s capable of driving the ball out of the park to all fields by using a combination of bat speed, physical strength and loft he generates with his left-handed swing. Concerns about Conine’s propensity to swing and miss in college were only exacerbated during his pro debut, as he showed very little selectivity while trying to hit the ball out of the park with every swing."
Baseball Prospectus offered the following in its August 28, 2019 report.
"Conine utilizes an open stance with hands held high and explodes through the zone with above average bat speed. Strikeouts will always be part of his game but are elevated due to his aggressive approach and current lack of pitch recognition. The ability to see spin will improve as he matures and is exposed to more secondaries.Physically strong with plus bat speed and natural loft to the swing make for plus power. It plays well in game to all fields as he knows how to attack fastballs in hitters counts and punish mistakes."
MLB Pipeline assigned a grade of 40 to Conine’s hitting; FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus each gave a 45 Future Value. Both marks are below average (50). With respect to Conine’s power, both MLB Pipeline and FanGraphs rated his power at 55, which is above average. Baseball Prospectus assessed his Power at 60.
Conine has below-average speed but a strong arm. Baseball Prospectus noted the following:
"Defensively, he’s limited to a corner spot where he makes up for below-average range with good instincts. He’ll be able to hold down right field with an arm that’s accurate and strong."
MLB Pipeline is singing from the same hymn book.
"With his below-average speed, plus raw power and plus arm strength — he recorded 10 outfield assists in the Northwest League — Conine has prototypical tools for right field."
Overall, MLB Pipeline, FanGraphs, and Baseball Prospectus determined that Conine’s fielding is average (50), which is aided greatly by a plus arm (60).
MLB Pipeline and FanGraphs project Conine to be below average. MLB Pipeline’s grade is 45, which corresponds to a platoon/utility role. FanGraphs assigned an overall grade of 40, which casts Conine as a bench player.
Baseball Prospectus was more optimistic about prospect Conine in their August 2019 report. Their overall grade was 55 and they concluded as follows:
"Conine has the tools and pedigree to be a solid everyday corner outfielder. The approach at the plate needs to become more disciplined but the power will play at the highest level. Profiles as a solid everyday right fielder."
The last word
Conine has the power and arm that are characteristic of an everyday right fielder. The key question is whether he can reduce his strikeout rate to an acceptable level. If he does, Conine can become a solid contributor in the Major Leagues.