In this two starts in the majors, it is understandable why Mets fans would have little patience for P.J. Conlon. He is a pitcher who tops out around 87 MPH. In his two starts, he was knocked around the ballpark not getting out of the fourth inning in either start. Because of that, as a starter, Conlon sports an 11.12 ERA and a 2.469 WHIP.
Really, those are ugly numbers for a starting pitcher, and if we are being honest, Conlon has not given much hope that he could become the next Jamie Moyer.
The interesting thing about Conlon was he was never supposed to start for the Mets. As previously reported by MMN, Conlon was supposed to make the switch from the starting rotation to the bullpen this season. The anticipated move shouldn’t have surprised anyone as the Mets have given Conlon a chance to join the Mets bullpen as the second left-hander in the bullpen in each of the past two Spring Trainings.
Really, when you look at it what is surprising is the Mets have yet to move Conlon to the bullpen.
They didn’t do so after his two Major League starts. They also haven’t done it with him struggling in Triple-A where he is 3-7 with a 7.26 ERA and 1.708 ERA. Now, we shouldn’t be too swayed by those Triple-A numbers. After all, Seth Lugo had a 6.50 ERA with Las Vegas in 2016 before getting called up, saving that season, and this year becoming a bullpen ace.
And that’s where we are with Conlon – can he become the bullpen ace Lugo became?
Arguably, this is where he belongs. Consider that at the end of the 2017 season, the Mets did transition him to the bullpen as Binghamton made a push for the Eastern League playoffs. In his six relief appearances and one three-inning spot start, Conlon did not allow an earned run. Over that stretch, opposing batters hit just .189/.250/.216. Conlon struck out 12 and walked three in 10.1 innings pitched as well. It should be no surprise to see him thrive out of the bullpen like this. In fact, entering this season, Baseball America said of Conlon:
He sells an excellent changeup with arm speed and a deceptive delivery that prevents batters from easily picking up the ball out of his hand. Conlon will bounce his fringe curveball in the dirt as a chase pitch, but relies on his changeup when going offspeed. The Mets moved him to the bullpen in August, and they intend to keep him there after he allowed a .192 average and struck out 9.8 per nine innings in six relief appearances. Conlon could see big league action in 2018, and has a ceiling similar to that of fellow lefty changeup artist Wade LeBlanc.
For a point of reference, since pitching in Japan in 2015, LeBlanc is 15-4 with a 3.99 ERA, and a 103 ERA+. Put another way, LeBlanc has been an effective Major League reliever.
Getting back to Conlon, he has a quirky delivery, good changeup, and good control, which allows him to hide the ball well. It’s also a detriment as batters see it more in a game and get more comfortable, it makes it easier to get a read on him and put a good swing on the ball.
Just look at his two starts. Against the Reds and Braves, he pitched a scoreless first, and both teams scored multiple runs against him as they turned the lineup over. Compare that to his one relief appearance where he pitched two scoreless innings against the Phillies with three strikeouts.
Just breaking it down that way, we see Conlon has shown the ability to get through a lineup once. Considering he not only has that ability, but also is capable of eating up some innings in the event a starter cannot go deep into a game, it would seem Conlon could be an interesting piece for the Mets bullpen.
However, for us to truly judge that, he’s going to have to get his chance. Considering where the Mets are in the standings and their already stated intention to see how their younger arms will play out in the bullpen, it would seem logical to give Conlon a chance.