The Braves’ front office has placed a pretty big emphasis on college players with track records of performance in recent years. They will make the occasional gamble on a prep player (just not on day one usually), but there is no denying that there is an attraction to college players who could contribute sooner rather than later. That is one reason why they went with a somewhat undersized, but proven infielder out of Texas Tech in Cal Conley in the 2021 draft.
Midseason Report Card: For his first appearance on our Top 30 prospects list which happened at midseason, we put Conley at No. 27. He didn’t do anything one way or the other to sway that opinion during his pro debut and we expect him to probably be somewhere in that range when we do our re-rank before the 2022 season.
Cal Conley 2021 MiLB Season Stats: 35 G, .214/.304/.307, 2 HR, 8 SB, 14 BB, 33 K
What we saw in 2021: Going to go ahead and put the usual draft year warning here - don’t put too much stock in the numbers a guy puts up in a small sample size during their draft year debut, particularly with college players. They already played a long season and that plus the weird downtime between getting getting drafted and making their debut makes it impossible to get a good read on them. That said, we did a lot of what he was billed as: a guy who is greater than the sum of his parts with a high baseball IQ, can hit the ball with authority, run a bit, and is an option at short or second base. We do want to see the power play more in games and as of this moment, we are not convinced that shortstop will be his home long-term, but he could be a quality second baseman or utility guy down the road. Conley doesn’t have a tool that you can point to and say “that is a major leaguer because of that”, but what he does have are a lot of characteristics that complement each other well.
What the future holds: With the new structure of the minor leagues, it is harder than ever to project WHERE a guy will play in 2022. Our guess is that maybe he is given a little more time at Augusta before moving up to Rome, but it is entirely possible (especially given the lack of competition) that he just starts the season at Rome. We expect him to hit better next season with a relatively normal offseason and some time to settle into being a pro. We don’t necessarily see a meteoric rise up the prospect rankings, but a steady performer that methodically moves up. For a fourth round pick in the draft, it is hard to ask for more than that.