Scouting the Draft: Conner O’Neil

By Ari Berkowitz

June 23, 2017 No comments

Round 7, Pick 217 – RHP Conner O’Neil

Ht: 6’2″ Wt: 190 DOB: 9/25/94 (22)

School: Cal State University, Northridge (Senior)

Stats:

  • 2014: 14 G, 8 GS, 47.0 IP, 4-3 W-L, 3.06 ERA, 16/54 BB/K, 1.13 WHIP (Central Arizona)
  • 2015: 28 G, 3 GS, 62.0 IP, 12 SV, 1.89 ERA, 18/64 BB/K, 0.97 WHIP
  • 2016: 23 G, 3 GS, 58.2 IP, 10 SV, 3.07 ERA, 33/70 BB/K, 1.33 WHIP
  • 2017: 27 G, 0 GS, 50.0 IP, 7 SV, 2.70 ERA, 27/63 BB/K, 1.24 WHIP
  • Totals: 92 G, 14 GS, 217.2 IP, 17-14 W-L, 29 SV, 2.64 ERA, 94/251 BB/K, 1.16 WHIP

Background:  As a college senior who’s already signed, Conner O’Neil is ready to start his pro career.  For the Mets, O’Neil is another right handed reliever who’s a highly accomplished college senior with low upside.  He may walk a few too many, yet the results have been there throughout his college career.

This draft, the Mets’ strategy has further evolved drafting five college senior, right handed relievers in the first ten rounds.  On the surface this seems to be a high risk/high reward type proposition, but given the Mets’ prowess in developing pitching, being able to hand select low upside relievers might be a stroke of pure genius.

These are players every organization is consistently looking for, bullpen fodder, fungible low level assets who for whatever reason have too prominent of a role every season, the Neil Ramirez‘ and Adam Wilks of the world.  So why not draft your favorite ones early, the ones fit your system a little better than your run-of-the-mill late round reliever, drafting more Paul Sewalds and fewer Chasen Bradfords.  I’m not saying that Paul Sewald is the second coming of Kent Tekulve or even that every reliever the Mets drafted will evolve into a Paul Sewald, but drafting the right ones, those who impact your Major League club, as opposed to being AAA bullpen depth, is a small decision that could pay large dividends.  Not to mention, but I have to assume the Mets will be signing these seniors at a reduced rate, saving invaluable draft pool capital.

Scouting:  O’Neil holds the ball for an exceedingly long time, effectively throwing off the hitter’s rhythm.  He’s a master at hiding the ball making it very hard for batters to pick on the release point or spin deflection of his pitches.  He tends to short-arm the ball on occasion, making me think that his holding the ball shtick effects his timing too.  His repertoire consists of a moving fastball that he throws high 80’s-low 90’s, a knuckle-curveball that has tremendous late life, an intriguing slow changeup sitting low-to-mid-70’s and a nondescript slider which will occasionally have nice shape and two-plane break, but will have to be tightened up or discarded at the pro level.

Mechanically speaking, O’Neil is one of the few relievers who throw out of the windup with nobody on-base, while the vast majority of relievers prefer to eschew it altogether.  Also intriguing is O’Neil’s use of the drop-and-drive mechanics, where you collapse your backside before exploding toward home, as opposed to the practically ubiquitous tall-and-fall setup of today.  His delivery is very smooth and he releases his pitches out of a consistently high 3/4 setup.

Development:  Given his age and maturity, you wouldn’t be wrong to assume that O’Neil isn’t very far from the Major League cusp.  That being said, he’s further away from having success at that level.  O’Neil clearly thinks too much on the bump.  Whether it’s because of his deliberate pace or something else, fixing the disruption in his timing will allow him to take the next step in improving his command.

Putting it simply, O’Neil isn’t talented enough to walk as many batters as he did in college at the Major League level.  Therefore, the quicker he learns how to command his pitches the faster he will make it to the show.  However, if he cannot, only an uptick in velocity will save him from the long bus rides of the minor leagues.

Ceiling (90th percentile): Taylor Buchholz

Floor (10th percentile): Jeff Walters

Projection (50th Percentile): Gonzalez Germen