Making one of the biggest jumps of any prospect in the system, outfielder Conner Capel sneaks in as our number 10 Cleveland Indians prospect for 2018. I ranked Capel number 29 on my own list just a year ago.
Capel was a sixth-round pick of the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 draft out of Seven Hills High in Katy, Texas. The 20-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder and stands 6’1″ and weighs in at about 185 pounds. He is the son of former big league relief pitcher Mike Capel. The Tribe lured the younger Capel away from college with a $361,300 signing bonus (slot value for his pick), and he spent the 2017 season at Class-A Lake County.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Conner Capel struggled in 2016 in his transition from high school ball to the professionals. In 35 games with the Tribe’s Rookie affiliate, he hit just .210 with a .560 OPS. He hit zero home runs and had just eight extra-base hits. However, things turned around in a big way in 2017 as Capel spent the year at full-season ball, which was a bit aggressive for the Indians and Capel.
His batting average still left much to be desired at .246; however, he hit 22 home runs and posted a very solid .795 OPS and 121 wRC+ in 119 games for the Captains. Capel’s 22 home runs tied for second most among all minor leaguers under the age of 21 in 2017.
Most (HR) by all MiLB players 20 years old or younger during 2017 season
Kyle Tucker (25)
Conner Capel (22)
Fernando Tatis Jr. (22) pic.twitter.com/1HP3N3IkDD
— Indians Prospective (@indiansPro) March 5, 2018
Overall he posted a very impressive .232 isolated power (ISO) thanks not only to the 22 home runs but 51 extra-base hits. In addition to the power display, Capel also showed off some nice wheels, stealing 15 bases to go along with his seven triples.
Defensively Capel played all three outfield positions for the Captains, spending most of his time in right field (64 starts). He has a plus-arm, which makes him a good fit long-term for right field though he has enough speed and range that he could still develop as a center fielder.
While there wasn’t much to dislike in 2017, Capel is far from a perfect prospect. He doesn’t have any truly elite skill despite the power jump. His speed is above average though in addition to his 15 steals he was also caught 10 times for a rather mundane 60-percent success rate. His bat fits better in center field than right field though it remains to be seen if the glove will cooperate fully.
Where does he go from here?
While he was one of the better draft prospects in 2016, one thing that held him back with the lack of perceived pop in his bat. He looked like he was probably more of a 10-15 home run guy, especially after putting up a goose egg in 2016. However, it would seem Capel is another player that has bought into the new line of thinking that loft is key. His flyball rate jumped from 26-percent in 2016 to nearly 44-percent this past year. He also pulled the ball more.
If he’s able to continue to build on that approach, combined with his solid walk rates he should have a bat capable of playing at the big league level even if his defense puts him in right field. Last year I felt Capel had the potential to be a rising star in 2017, giving him a potential comp of Denard Span, which even I knew was pretty extreme. A weaker hitting Tyler Naquin actually seemed more likely but another year like 2017 and Capel could be a top-five prospect in this Tribe system come 2019.
Capel figures to start 2018 at Advanced-A Lynchburg where he’ll once again see time in all three outfield spots. I expect the Indians to try and give him more time in center field and let him prove whether he can handle the spot or not. Capel may not be a household name for most Tribe fans, but he should be.