Unlike their previous pick, this was perhaps the least surprising pick imaginable. Let’s count the ways:
- He’s a college position player, the demographic the Jays have most preferred with their top 100 picks in the Shapiro/Atkins era
- He’s the son of a long time big leaguer Jeff Conine, another addition to their bloodline collection
- The Jays have been connected to him since late last year
- He came into his junior season as a potential first rounder, and had he fulfilled that he would have been only the second first round draftee out of Duke...after some guy named Marcus Stroman
Conine profiles as a corner outfielder, with the bat and his power particularly being the big selling point as it was for his father (115 OPS+ from 1994 to 2001, with 214 career home runs).
Conine had a breakout sophomore season at Duke, hitting .298/.425/.546 with 13 home runs and 41 walks against 45 strikeouts (19%) in 239 PA. He carried that over to the summer in the Cape Cod league (the premier wood bat college league), hitting .329/.406/.537 in 187 PA with 9 home runs while drawing 20 walks against 43 strikeouts (23%). He was chosen by scouts as the top pro prospect on the Cape.
The vaulted him into consideration for not just the first round, but the upper reaches of the first round, and there was early talk of the Jays being interested with the 12th overall pick. To the extent that was the case, the Jays have to be thrilled to be getting him in the second round.
Griffin Conine could be excellent value for the Blue Jays. Had some issues this spring, but when he's at his best showed a chance to hit for average and power. Just a matter of getting that version as a professional consistently.— Christopher Crawford (@Crawford_MILB) June 5, 2018
The reason he slid down the draft board was a very poor start to his 2018 college season as he struggled mightily. Nonetheless, he has bounced back strongly in April and May, such that his overall season line is right up there with 2017: in 272 PA, he’s hitting .278/.402/.611 with 18 home runs among 36 extra base hits. The power is up, but so the are strikeouts at 72, a 26% strikeout rate which is a bit of a red flag.
There are some shades of Kevin Smith here, who ended up tumbling down the draft board with a very slow start to his junior year and elevated K-rate, even as he turned it on later in the year. Like Smith, Conine is also young for his draft class, as he only turns 21 a month from now.
One fun note is that Conine played for the La Crosse Loggers of the Northwoods League in the summer of 2016, as did a number of players the Jays drafted in last year’s draft (for example, Cullen Large).