Hometown: Olympia, Wash.
Prev. Drafted: Twins ’08 (32)
Birthdate: May 24, 1990
SCOUTING PROFILE: This year’s draft is unusually deep in college lefthanders. As many as 7-8 such arms have drawn first-round scrutiny around the country this spring, and the existing record of six lefthanders in the first round (set on three occasions, most recently as 2007) may be in jeopardy of falling. The Pacific Northwest alone has four potential first-round lefthanders with Conley joined by Oregon’s Tyler Anderson, Gonzaga’s Ryan Carpenter and Oregon State’s Josh Osich. Though that quartet has been used as starters this season, that role is relatively new to Conley as he was used primarily as a reliever his in first two seasons with the Cougars. He saved 12 games as WSU’s primary closer in 2010, but was installed as the team’s Friday starter this year—mainly on the basis of team need. He has gone 5-6, 3.00 with 17 walks and 77 strikeouts in 87 innings in that role, and his performance faded a bit in the second half after a fast start. That may ultimately cost Conley his chance of going in the first round, but scouts have been quick to recognize that Conley’s stuff, high-energy delivery and competitive fire are probably better suited in a short role, that he simply ran out of gas this spring with his heavier workload. Though Conley can throw strides with uncanny routine, has a quick, live, loose arm and a fastball that is explosive and frequently reaches 95 mph, he is not physically imposing, even in an angular 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame. There’s also some undesirable violence in his delivery and Conley’s secondary stuff is just average by front-line-starter standards, though his slider continues to make strides towards becoming a legit second pitch. Working as a starter has provided him an opportunity to develop that pitch, along with his changeup. Conley’s bread-and-butter pitch, though, has always been his fastball—both a heavy, two-seamer at 89-93 mph with excellent sinking action, and a four-seamer that he can run up to 95. Conley is one of the few elite-level college players who abstained from playing in a summer college league following his sophomore season, but his career enjoyed a breakout in summer-league competition in 2009, when he was named the No. 1 prospect in the New England Collegiate League. That designation may have been more about his remarkable 0.00 ERA that he authored over a span of 34 regular-season innings than the quality of his stuff at the time. A 32nd-round pick of the Minnesota Twins in the 2008 draft out of an Olympia, Wash., high school, Conley went 2-0 in eight appearances (4 starts) for Keene that summer, while allowing one unearned run and limiting opponents to a .125 batting average. He walked 11 and struck out 37. Conley’s fastball was mostly in the 86-88 mph range, occasionally reaching 90-91, and his success stemmed mainly from his advanced understanding of how to pitch and work hitters. He has always worked quickly and confidently, and commands his fastball efficiently low in the strike zone. He excels at changing planes and getting hitters off balance—even making them look foolish, at times—with the deception he can create, especially in his unorthodox delivery. With Conley’s long, loose frame and long arms, it was evident to scouts even two years ago that he would eventually throw much harder, and that has proven to be the case. Now it’s simply a case of determining what role best suits Conley’s variety of skills.
Projected Draft Position: Sandwich round
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