By now, many of you have probably already heard of P.J. Conlon, the Mets’ left-handed pitching prospect, that emigrated from Ireland. However, hat only scratches the surface of who Conlon is.
Conlon is actually from Northern Ireland – Belfast to be exact – a city at the center of The Troubles, an ethno-nationalist conflict over whether Northern Ireland belonged to the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland. Not an ideal place to raise a family, especially an Irish Catholic family like the Conlons.
Seeking to escape the danger that was so prevalent in their lives, the Conlons departed for America and settled in California. It was there that would all become citizens, and it was there they would seek to fulfill the American dream. And nothing is more American than baseball.
Like most American boys, Conlon played baseball, and he was good enough to play in high school. Despite being a standout high school starting pitcher, Conlon wasn’t drafted by any major league teams leading him to further purse his baseball dreams in college.
Conlon would go to the University of San Diego. His college roommate was current Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. In Conlon’s Junior year, he was 6-4 with a 2.17 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and an 8.1 K/9.
He wasn’t overlooked after that. The Mets would make him their 13th round draft pick in the 2015 draft.
Right away, he showed the Mets he was special. In 17 relief appearances for the Brooklyn Cyclones, Conlon was 0-1 with a 0.00 ERA, 0.59 WHIP, and a 13.2 K/9. His stats suggested he could become a draft steal and yet Conlon, himself, didn’t have great stuff.
His fastball routinely sits in the mid to high 80s. However, Conlon is still able to make it work because he pairs it with a terrific change-up and a good curveball. In fact, Conlon’s change-up may very well be the best change-up in the entire Mets farm system. Conlon also hides the ball very well due to his delivery. As you can see, it is a lot of arms and legs:
Perhaps, the main thing Conlon does right is he knows how to attack hitters. He plays each one of his pitches off the other ones making his repertoire more effective. He pounds the strike zone, and he typically keeps the ball on the ground. He’s really an uncomfortable at-bat for a hitter.
Conlon built upon his 2015 success when he was moved from the bullpen to the rotation in 2016. In his time split between Columbia and St. Lucie, Conlon was dominant once again. In 23 starts and one relief appearance, Conlon was 12-2 with a 1.65 ERA, a 0.98 WHIP, and a 6.1 K/BB ratio. His 1.65 ERA was lowest among all full season qualified starters.
His performance brought with it a lot of awards and recognition. He was a South Atlantic League All-Star. He was named the MiLB.com Fans’ Choice for Best Starting Pitcher. He was named an MiLB Mets Organizational All-Star. He was MLB Pipeline’s Mets Pitching Prospect of the Year. Perhaps most importantly, the New York Mets named Conlon the Sterling Organizational Pitcher of the Year.
He’s a prospect that seems to be not too far from the major leagues.He was a non-roster invitee to Major League Spring Training with the Mets considering using him out of the bullpen as soon as Opening Day. Most likely, Conlon will begin the year in Binghamton waiting for the call to the majors whether it is this year or the next; whether it is for a spot start or to pitch out of the bullpen.
And when that day eventually comes, Conlon will be doing something truly special indeed. The day Conlon steps foot on the field, he will become just the 44th major leaguer born in Ireland. He will be the first Irish born major leaguer since Joe Cleary pitched one-third of an inning for the 1945 Washington Senators over 70 years ago.
“I’ve always wanted to prove not only to myself but to people growing up that this was something I could do,” Conlon recently told the Irish Times.
“I feel like I can get big league hitters out and I’m just in the process right now of polishing everything and being ready for that step.”
This isn’t supposed to happen to boys born in dangerous war torn cities. This isn’t supposed to happen to boys born in Ireland. This isn’t even supposed to happen to pitchers who don’t throw their fastballs in the 90s. And yet, Conlon continues to persevere and make the best out of who he is and what he has.
That, in a nutshell, is the American Dream.