PJ Conlon: A Mets Pitching Prospect Evokes Jamie Moyer

PJ Conlon doesn’t fit the profile of a New York Mets starter. The defending National League champions have a rotation populated by deGroms, Harveys and Syndergaards. Conlon, meanwhile, isn’t a power arm. The 22-year-old pitching prospect is your prototypical finesse lefty who relies more on guile than gas.

Twenty-seven games into his professional career, Conlon resembles a half-his-age Jamie Moyer. He looks hittable, but squaring him up is often an exercise in futility. Since being drafted in the 13th round last year out of the University of San Diego, Conlon has allowed a grand total of nine earned runs in 84 innings. On Saturday, he took the hill for the Low-A Columbia Fireflies and breezed through 10 innings on just 97 pitches. He flirted with a no-hitter and held Hagerstown to a lone tally.

Soon after that start, Conlon was named to the South Atlantic League’s mid-season All-Star team. He leads the circuit in both wins and ERA, and ranks second in WHIP.

Conlon was featured in this past Sunday’s Notes column, with his Irish heritage being the main focus (he was born in Belfast). Today we hear from the southpaw on his pitching prowess.


Conlon on pitching: “I’d describe myself as a shorter lefty who doesn’t have great velocity. I’m about 6-foot and will top out at 91 on a good day. I’m usually between 87-90, but I can run the ball and do different things with it. I don’t really throw anything straight.

“I pride myself in being able to throw all four of my pitches for strikes, and for the most part I’m able to put them where I want. My plan of attack is basically to keep guys guessing and off balance. I don’t let them get too comfortable by being too predictable.

“I’ll pitch backwards, but more than that I like to study guys in the box. I really pay attention to hitters. If I get to see a team in the days before I pitch, I’ll check what guys are doing and what they’re looking for. I try to find and exploit weaknesses.

“A lot of guys like fastballs, but that doesn’t mean I can’t throw them fastballs. It just means I need to put them where I want. I throw both a two-seam and a four-seam. My two-seam has a little more depth, while my four-seam just kind of runs a little bit.

“I’d say my changeup is my best pitch right now. Definitely. I’ve been able to find it this season and kind of run with it. That’s been my go-to. If I had to rank my pitches, I’d probably go changeup, fastball, slider, curveball.

“I saw a quote from Jered Weaver that I like. I think he threw about 20% fastballs in one of his starts and they asked him about it after the game. He was like, ‘You know, it was one of those days. The front door was locked and the back door was bolted, so I was trying to go through the chimney.’ I thought that was hilarious. I threw about 40% fastballs in a recent start, because I couldn’t find it, and someone brought up that quote.

“I can take something away from an outing like that. Velocity isn’t necessarily what gets guys out. Guys get themselves out all the time. You can frustrate hitters. If they don’t know what’s coming, and they’re not getting what they like to see… like I said, I’m changing speeds and trying to keep hitters off balance.

“If I’m down on the count 2-0, I might throw my two-seam 86 and let him beat it into the ground. He’s looking fastball, so rather than humping up and trying to throw it by him, I’ll dial it down below the hitting speed and let him get himself out.

“There’s never a perfect pitch and there’s never a guy you can’t throw a certain pitch to. You’ll hear people say, ‘This guy loves fastballs, so we can’t throw him fastballs.’ Well, if your best pitch is a fastball, why wouldn’t you throw him that? You have to give hitters credit, but only to a certain extent. Hitting is hard. You can beat hitters with any pitch if you execute it.

“Will my approach work for me at the highest levels? I can’t really answer that, because I haven’t gotten that opportunity yet. But when the time comes and I get to face more advanced hitters… advanced hitters have an approach up at the plate. There’s something they’re looking for, and if pitchers really pay attention, if they really study the hitters, that can work to their advantage. You figure out how to attack someone.

“Right now, I don’t really know most of the guys I’m pitching against. I’m kind of taking the same mentality into every hitter. As you move up, you become more familiar with people, and that’s something I hope to use to my advantage.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

Comments are closed.