Cal Conley spent the 2023 season getting his first look at the upper levels of the minor leagues.
Cal Conley came into the Atlanta Braves system as a fairly high draft choice known more for his contact ability, speed, and defensive versatility than anything else. Being just 5’8” and weighing just 185 pounds, power has never been a big part of his game. With that said, he still found some ways to overachieve, and spent the 2022 season hitting 16 homers between Rome and Augusta.
Conley was drafted in the fourth round of the 2021 First Year Player Draft. He started his college career at Miami before transferring to Texas Tech. He didn’t play at Miami as a freshman, but then hit .339/.405/.600 in his two years at Texas Tech, including hitting 15 homers during his 2021 season.
Preseason Report Card
Conley came into the year following a strong first full season of pro ball in 2022, split between both levels of A-ball, and then finishing the year heartily with a .841 OPS in the Arizona Fall League. He was projected to start the year in Double-A Mississippi and began as our 13th-ranked prospect in the Braves system. He had always been seen as more of a utility type of player, but there was some hope that he could end up being a little more than that. He had some elements to his game that you could see a Tommy Edman-type of player if everything worked out for the best best.
What we saw in 2023
Conley went to Double-A Mississippi and spent the whole season there, giving him his first taste of the upper minors. Unfortunately, he was unable to carry over his success from 2022 into the 2023 season. In 599 plate appearances he hit just .219/.298/.286 (61 wRC+) with three homers and 32 stolen bases.
Conley actually walked at a slightly better rate (8.9 percent) to what he did in 2022 (8.0 percent), while seeing a small jump in his strikeout rate (22.2 percent versus 19.9 percent) as he moved to the upper minors. However the quality of the contact he made dropped off substantially against better pitching, as he hit 13 fewer home runs and saw his extra-base hit total drop from 43 to 27. It wasn’t just the homers falling off, as the total number of doubles he hit went up by just one and he also hit four fewer triples; the homers that disappeared from his total didn’t show up as other extra-base hits.
After what could only be classified as a disappointing season for him, the odds are strong that Conley repeats Double-A to start 2024. With a good start to the year he could be a quick promotion candidate, but entering his age-24 season and coming off a season with a sub-.300 OBP and SLG, he will need to prove he can make enough quality contact against pitchers in the upper levels of the minor leagues to have even a chance to reach his potential as a utility guy. Conley does have a chance to bounce back, being a guy who has always hit and outperformed expectations, but the 2024 season will mark a key season in his career.
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Title: 2023 Braves Minor League Player Review: Cal Conley
Author: Matt Powers