Updated: Dec 5, 2021
WELCOME TO THE DIRTY FLIRTY.
These are my top 40 prospects in The Cardinals organization, aside from the players that I’ve already covered in The Dirty Annexes. This little ditty here is the preface to all of the post in our Dirty series. So, if you’ve read this once then you don’t need to read it again!
A warning to those looking for Lars Nootbaar, Scott Hurst, Junior Fernandez, Johan Oviedo, Jake Woodford, Edmundo Sosa, and anyone aside from Angel Rondon that has already made a major league debut: That’s not really my bailiwick, as I’m sure you’ve heard enough about those guys from more qualified outlets already. Most of those guys have exhausted their prospect status, anyway.
A reminder that this is an exercise in futility, ranking prospects. It’s a landscape that is ever-changing and developing. We are almost always talking about kids that are just starting to understand both themselves and their bodies, while learning the most difficult and nuanced sport in the land. You never know when someone is going to start doing 200 pushups per day on their way to postseason glory.
I ask for your thoughts and feedback. I ask that you have fun. I ask that you remember that I’m a moron. Most importantly, I ask that you take all of the prospect rankings from every outlet in the spirit of what they are: a snapshot of that moment, with a bent towards understanding what might come.
#33: Outfielder Conner Capel
24, Entering His Age 25 Season
Acquired From The Guardians as part of the Oscar Mercado trade.
First, I'd like for it to be known that Conner Capel is the only player named "Connor" in the organization that spells his name by replacing that second "o" with an "e" and I resent his parents so damn much for that.
To be completely honest, Conner Capel is about as boring of a prospect as you'll find on this list. There is a lot of big, underlying power in his game, but he hasn't shown the ability to be able to combine that with a contact tool just yet. Capel has a lot of fun tools, specifically in the outfield, but we've been so spoiled by really good outfield defense for some time now that it's just kind of "whatever" at this point. However, what I really love is that I can put a true potential fourth outfielder on the list at 314th overall and feel like I've accomplished something with my life.
Maybe the best way to put it is that Conner Capel is Lars Nootbaar lite. Even better, Lars Nootbaar zero calories? Does that make sense at all? Is anyone reading this bullshit? OK, maybe like that 35 calorie beer version of Lars Nootbaar. Or, because we'll eventually get the "Nootbaar" chocolate bar, Capel is like the candy corn version of Lars Nootbaar. It's really "whatever", and I'm sure some maniacs have some strong opinions about it on both ends of the debate, but when you boil it down what you have is candy and that's pretty cool.
While Lars was reaching inward during the pandemic to become the most powerful and complete version of himself, Conner was learning how to make more frequent contact. In the past, Capel was best known for his power potential that he would walk into every once in a while. That, and according to my Twitter followers, a swing that reminds them a lot of Chase Utley. It never really seemed like Capel would be able to make enough productive contact to really matter. It's the main reason why I have always been highly critical of him, thus excluding him from nearly all of my Dirty listings. I bring that up because it would be my natural inclination to mentally knock him down on my personal standing because his power seemed to regress during the 2021 season. Instead, it worked the opposite way.
After his 2021 season, this is the first time that I feel like Capel has a real chance to make some type of Major League debut. I'm not sure if that's in the Scott Hurst "get this guy to the Majors because we are screwed, depth-wise" kind of way, or the "meh, let's see what happens" kind of way, but who really cares at that point. If he finds a way to continue to make this amount of contact while accessing his raw power, there's a chance that this left-handed hitting outfielder could end up being something more.
I've really come to appreciate Capel's defensive abilities. Capel has become one of a laundry list of outfield prospects in the organization that can really handle center field, too. I do not need to tell you how well this bodes his future, even if he is best suited for a corner. Capel's arm can be a real standout tool when he allows himself to get into good position, and when he doesn't hesitate to unleash it. If I were to categorize his speed, I'd categorize it as "better than you'd think." Then I would laugh at how vague of a description that is. Anyway, he's faster in the outfield than he is around the bases, and he's sneaky-fast in the way that a lot of other outfielders have been over the years.
Now, you might be questioning why I view him more as a fourth/fifth/depth outfielder even if he can continue to make consistent contact with power. The reason that I feel this way is because his success seems to come in bunches. Capel has this way of hitting in eight straight at bats or getting on base in 12 straight plate appearances, then following that with a stretch of 3-5 straight games without reaching base at all. This makes me think that he really sees the ball well when he sees the ball well, and that there is real danger when he is not seeing the ball. Obviously, this is the same generic phrase that can be said about anyone that has ever stood in the batter's box. However, this criticism seems "extra" with Capel. By that, what I mean to say more than anything else is that Capel needs comfort and a groove to be the best version of himself. To me, that smells of a fourth or fifth outfielder/minor league depth option.
The other thing that really stood out to me about Capel at the plate was that he was willing to do more to get on base. A few gifs above, you'll see him bunt against the shift to get on base. I noticed that Capel was taking more pitches and defensively swinging to foul off borderline pitches with two strikes. As compared to years past, Capel was more willing to shorten up and poke a ball to the opposite field to get his hits. There were a lot of positive developments in his approach during the season, and he also added a couple of big hits and moments along the way. That makes me happy for this young man. He's a good kid that's always hustling regardless of the situation. He's going to do most/nearly all of his slugging damage against pitches on the inner third of the plate, but it was cool to see him do more with every other type of pitch around the plate.
I can already hear the blowback now. I know how this will go. So many people will direct message me or hit me up on Twitter questioning how I can put a prospect that I view as a fourth outfielder - at best - on the listing. To get ahead of that, I would like to remind everybody just how rare a fourth outfielder is. They do not grow on trees, even if the rhetoric from organizations and scouting services say otherwise. While the most likely outcome for this young man is to stay a long term organizational depth piece until his career is over. However, there is no reason to think that he couldn't be a 4th or 5th outfielder in a matchup situation for a good Major League Baseball team. Hell, Nick Martini is still bouncing around the league, so who knows. Moreover, when you take a step back and you see his arm and his speed and his outfield versatility, as well as his contact growth and his power potential – specifically from the left side – you can see a player that could be a real bear if he puts it all together. I am hopeful that Capel will put it all together.
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In addition, you all know how important and valuable @cardinalsgifs is to the pictures that fire up these articles. I wouldn’t do the write-ups if it weren’t for him.
Thank For Reading!!