Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Exit Music (For A Player): Hank Conger

Hey, the wounds are still fresh, so it seems like a fine time to do some evaluating. This is the Exit Music (For A Player) series. Check out other Exit Music (For A Player) posts here

Acquired: Acquired via trade November 5, 2014 from Anaheim for Carlos Perez and Nick Tropeano

Age: 27. Conger will be 28 at the end of January.

Contract Status: Two years of arbitration remaining. Conger will not be a free agent until 2018.


This is an interesting one. Conger was the Angels' 1st Round pick (25th overall) in the 2006 draft and made his Major League debut in 2010, when he played in 13 games, hitting .172/.294/.276. He played in 59 games in 2011 backing up Jeff Mathis who somehow played 93 games hitting .174/.225/.259 for an OPS+ of 38, comparable to the stats a giant snapping turtle would generate at the plate, were he to grow opposable thumbs. Conger got 197 plate appearances in 2011 and, while he wasn't exactly Babe Ruth, his .209/.282/.356 must have seemed like Babe Ruth.

Jerry DiPoto was hired by the Angels in the 2011 offseason, and he went out and got Chris Iannetta behind the plate, limiting Conger to seven games for the Angels in 2012. For Triple-A Salt Lake, though, Conger hit .295/.347/.473 as a 24-year old in 2012, showing some promise with the bat. He has been in the Majors ever since.

Conger set a career-high in games played in 2013 with 92, hitting .249/.310/.403 and in 80 games for the 2014 Angels he hit .221/.293/.325.

Which makes it a curious decision for the Astros to trade both Carlos Perez and Nick Tropeano to the Angels for Conger. Perez is a 24-year old catcher who had put up a .259/.323/.385 line in 75 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City. He struck out 54 times in 340 plate appearances. Perez also had a strong arm, throwing out 43 of 90 base runners (48% CS) in 2013, including 35 of 75 for OKC. In 2014, he took a step back from that number, throwing out 22 of 68 baserunners, but still. Essentially the Astros traded a backup catcher with no major league experience and a young starting pitcher to the Angels for a backup catcher with major league experience.


Conger was an average player, which is pretty much all you can expect from your backup catcher. FanGraphs gave him slightly-below average marks in baselining, offense, and defense, but still a 0.5 WAR. Were FanGraphs to include dugout and clubhouse celebrations, Conger would have posted an 8.0+ WAR. But he is what he is - a backup catcher.

And Conger did have moments of sparkle. He posted a .448 SLG for a reason. His first homer as an Astro was a two-run shot off the bench in the 12th that put the Astros up 6-4 at Arlington, proving to be the game-winning homer. Conger hit a grand slam against the Diamondbacks in August, going 3x4 with 2HR and 5RBI. He had another 5RBI game September 4 against the Twins. And in September, when the Astros were just looking for anything they could get, he did hit .283/.306/.478.

Then there's the defense: Conger threw out one of 42 baserunners in 2015. One. Who was that unlucky baserunner? Former Astro/current White Sock(x)  J.B. Shuck, whom Conger threw out on May 29 trying to steal 2nd base to end the the 10th inning in a 3-3 game.

Franchise Marks:

*Conger's 5th-closest similarity score, according to Baseball-Reference? A.J. Hinch.


Conger has two years of arbitration left - he's a serviceable backup catcher with a little bit of pop. I don't know how many challengers there are for the backup catcher spot. Because who else can do this: