If there’s such as thing as a win-win trade, the Blue Jays deal with the Marlins which saw Jonathan Villar head to Toronto (or, more accurately, Buffalo), while prospect Griffin Conine will head to the organization for which his dad became something of a cult hero, may fall under that category. The positives and negatives for both sides seem to even out.
The indication of Marlins fans on Twitter seems to be that Villar had quickly worn out his welcome; for his part, Conine got lost in the shuffle among higher-ranked prospects in Toronto’s system.
2018 was supposed to be a banner year for Conine. He had a breakout season in his sophomore year at Duke and followed that up with a strong summer in the Cape League. Viewed by many as a potential first round pick, Conine struggled with the high expectations that came in his draft year, and he fell to the Blue Jays in the 2nd round. His numbers in his first pro season with Vancouver were decent, but not overwhelming. A 50 game PED suspension limited his full season debut until June of 2019, but he still managed to lead the Midwest League in round trippers despite appearing in just 80 games.
Conine is a feast-or-famine guy at the plate – a player who doesn’t make a lot of contact (his 21% whiff and 36% K rates led the system by a considerable amount in 2019), but when he does, the results tend to be loud. Many of the 22 long balls he hit last summer for Lansing were of the towering drive quality. And while that bat (70 grade raw power from Fangraphs) is hard to ignore, it’s hard to see a guy swinging and missing that much in Low A making the necessary adjustments to make more contact at the higher levels without sacrificing some pop.
On the defensive side, Conine’s is a fringy defender with a plus arm, which makes him suited to a corner OF spot for now. His below average running speed probably means a move to 1st might be in his future.
The report on Conine from Baseball America:
Conine has a straightforward profile: gigantic power with a lot of strikeouts. Conine is strong, has fast bat speed and plus-plus raw power. Conine clobbers the ball when he connects, especially when he gets a pitch in the middle to lower part of the strike zone. But Conine’s swing also has holes and he swings and misses too often on pitches in the strike zone, especially when pitchers attack him up, leading to a 36-percent strikeout rate, a significant red flag for a college hitter in low Class A.
Certainly, it would have been intriguing to see how Conine developed in the Blue Jays system, but he has some questions marks, and for the short term at least, Villar helps bolster the major league roster.