Despite producing less than astounding numbers last season (3.85 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 4.2 BB/9), Adam Conley showed enough potential and flashes of brilliance to have the Marlins feeling confident about their young left-hander moving forward into 2017.
After all, he had handled the large increase in major league innings, relative to 2015, well and was producing consistent results, not to mention he nearly no-hit the Brewers. Then, when the Marlins were ready to rely on him to back-up Wei-Yin Chen near the top of the rotation, Conley balked.
Before being sent down to Triple-A New Orleans in mid-May, he had produced a 7.53 ERA over six starts, which included a nine-run outing against the Pirates and a seven-run appearance against the Cardinals. Conley's nightmare would not end in the minor leagues, however.
In 12 starts, he was knocked around some more, as evident by his 5.49 ERA and 1.51 WHIP. The strikeouts continued to disappear as well, as Conley only managed to rack-up 5.9 per nine innings over that span, much lower than his career average across all levels (7.9 K/9) to date. In comparison, Conley's last stint at the AAA level back in 2015 was dominant (2.52 ERA over 18 starts and a 1.17 WHIP), which is what led to his promotion in the first place.
Conley's promotion this time around was due to necessity, as Wei-Yin Chen and Edinson Volquez were (and still are) missing time with injuries, and Tom Koehler (now demoted) was struggling in all sorts of ways. But would you believe it, Adam Conley is back to being the pitcher with heaps of potential from last year, and that is what is frustrating.
Since being recalled, Conley has only allowed two runs in 13 innings, including a seven-inning shutout of the offensively-potent Texas Rangers last night. His 1.31 WHIP over those two starts is still high, but he has been much more effective at working out of trouble and preventing big innings.
The thing is, though, the pressure is now off as the Marlins are already way out of the playoff picture, so wins and losses matter less and less with each passing game. With that being said, it is difficult to predict whether Adam Conley will be a useful rotation piece next season considering how badly he performed when the games still mattered.
Of course, these two starts could be anomalies and the rest of his season could continue like it started, but if he has turned a corner it is impossible to say that he is a reliable arm going into 2018.
Regardless of his form over the next two months, Conley will likely still be battling for a rotation spot once Spring Training rolls around. What that means for the Marlins remains to be seen.