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Rotation Candidate: Adam Conley

Is he fixable?

Miami Marlins v Colorado Rockies Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Ed. Note: As we continue to roll through our coverage of Marlins’ spring training happenings, one of the things we’ll be doing is taking a look at some of the potential candidates to start in Miami’s rotation, of which there are many. First up, Adam Conley. - TB

My, how a year changes things.

If we were having this discussion at the end of 2016, there would be no question that Adam Conley would be in the Marlins rotation, none whatsoever.

Aside from the obvious, gaping absence of Jose Fernandez, Conley was coming off of a season that saw him show the legitimate upside of a low-second round pick: A live fastball between 92-93 mph, acceptable-to-good secondary pitches that could compliment said fastball, and a respectable 8.37 K/9 rate over 133 innings pitched that helped fuel a 1.5 fWAR contribution. There were warts (a troubling 4.19 BB/9 rate and a propensity to collapse in the middle innings, among them), but bottom line, there was reason to believe he would continue to improve upon the positives displayed in 2016.

Unfortunately, 2017 saw a couple of unwelcome developments. Of primary concern was the dip of more then 2 miles an hour on the fastball from an average of 92.1 down to 89.9 mph which paired with a lack of command that ultimately landed Conley in AAA for over two months.

When he returned to the rotation for good following the All-Star break things didn’t get much better for Conley. He would end up posting a 5.59 ERA/5.77 FIP down the stretch, giving up 15 jacks for a final, unsightly 1.67 HR/FB rate (in fact, he would run a stretch between July 29th and Sept. 27th where he gave up at least one home run in every start, save one — a span of 12 starts). Finally, there was the admittedly anecdotal but nevertheless interesting observation from an unamed Marlins official that Conley overthinks things and “isn’t as receptive to coaching as some Marlins people would like.” Of course, Conley himself has openly admitted to rejecting aspects of the approach the Marlins wanted him to take in the minor leagues.

At this point, you’re probably thinking I’m heading into a different direction with this piece, but I’m not, I assure you. I like Adam Conley, as a player, as a talent, as a fellow Washington State University alum (Go Cougs).

Despite the rough year and the worrisome decrease in velocity, Conley’s upside remains solid. I’ll be keeping a close eye on Conley’s velocity in spring training, as he’s a year removed further removed from a DL stint that seemed to coincide with the reduction.

With Conley eligible for arbitration for the first time in 2019 and years of control under their belt, it seems to me that the Marlins have every incentive to give Conley a chance to be an effective middle of the rotation guy for them. Given that, I don’t think there’s much chance that Conley doesn’t at least start the season in the rotation. Whether he remains there or not will be entirely up to him.

Rotation chances: Stellar.