The last time IrishCentral caught up with P.J. Conlon, the Belfast-born pitcher in the New York Mets farm system, he was pitching for the Columbia Firebirds of the Sally League. Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League. Different league, same results – continued excellence.
Recently, the New York Mets named Conlon their Sterling Organizational Pitcher of the Year. In receiving this award Conlon follows in the footsteps of All Star relief pitcher Jeurys Familia and Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz.
2016 turned out to be an impressive season for the former 13th round draft choice. Overall, pitching between Columbia (where he was an All Star selection) and St. Lucie, the 22-year-old lefty combined for a 12-2 won-loss record with an outstanding 1.65 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP, which translates into less than a baserunner per inning. His combined 1.65 ERA was the best full season ERA for a starter in the entire minor leagues this season.
So where does Conlon go from here? Next season he should start in AA ball with Binghamton of the Eastern League. If things go according to plan, Conlon could be pitching in New York by 2019, if not sooner.
The biggest question about Conlon is will he remain a starting pitcher? He only throws in the 89-90 range, whereas a star like the Mets Noah Syndergaard clocks in around the 100 MPH range. But a lot of pitchers in Conlon’s class of crafty southpaw have been successful over the years – John Tudor, Bobby Shantz and the Mets' own Bobby Ojeda come to mind. One of the keys to Conlon’s success is his change-up, which Baseball America rated the best in the Sally League. A nasty change-up can make an average fastball look a lot faster.
Another thing Conlon has going for him is that he is left-handed. If he doesn’t make it as a starting pitcher he may have a long career as a LOOGY (lefty one-out guy), a lefthander who specializes in getting left-handed hitters out. The bullpen challenge doesn’t scare Conlon. “I got a taste of pitching out of the bullpen in Brooklyn last year,” he told IrishCentral earlier this year. “I don’t have a preference of the two. My ultimate goal is to pitch in the major leagues.”
Whether it is as a starter or a reliever, P.J. Conlon is very likely going to be bringing some of that Béal Feirste magic to the New York Mets in the near future.
* Dermot McEvoy is the author of the "The 13th Apostle: A Novel of a Dublin Family, Michael Collins, and the Irish Uprising" and "Irish Miscellany" (Skyhorse Publishing). He may be reached at [email protected] Follow him at www.dermotmcevoy.com. Follow The 13th Apostle on Facebook.