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Who the Heck is Brett Conine? Profiling the Breakout Star of the 2018 Draft

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Brett Conine at Cal State Fullerton.
Brett Conine at Cal State Fullerton.
John McKee

Brett Conine is having one heck of a season. In a system flush with stud pitching prospects, nobody is having a better season than Conine. How good has he been? How about a 1.65 ERA in Fayetteville, matched by a 1.61 xFIP and a 1.62 FIP. He’s pitched 60 IP across two levels, he’s walked 10 and struck out 82 batters. That’s insane. After 27 overpowering innings at Quad Cities, he moved up to A+ and struck out even more guys, while walking even less!

Conine (no relation to former MLBer Jeff) came to the Astros almost exactly one year ago, as an 11th rounder out of CS Fullerton. He closed for them, and the Astros saw something they liked, probably when he was in the Cape Cod league in the summer of 2017 and he K’d 18 of 32 batters faced. The Astros let Conine start/tandem upon joining the organization, and he has not disappointed.

It’s hard to find out much about Conine (heck, the picture above is of Brandon Bielak because I couldn’t find one of Conine [edit: Lead photo has been changed to Conine during his Cal State-Fullerton days. Photo courtesy Conine’s grandfather, John McKee] ) He’s not on the MLB Top 30 prospects, and was not even mentioned in Fangraphs top 39. He didn’t even make 1500 Prospects top 50! His 2018 at Tri-Cities was sneaky good, and portended his 2019 breakout.

Whatever he’s doing, it’s working. He’s making mincemeat out of the Carolina League. At 22.8, he’s not old for a league, and is exactly where an advanced 2018 college arm should be one year after the draft. College arms from that draft class with higher pedigree—guys like Cody Deason and RJ Freure—have not yet made it out of the Midwest League.

Since Conine has not been considered a serious prospect, there’s not of a scouting report. Besides this article from when he was drafted, information is hard to come by, so one ends up scouting the (in this case absurdly intriguing) stat line. MILB has a nice sequence of Conine throwing three curves before coming in with a fastball for a K looking from his 6/1 start, where he K’ed 12 guys. In the aforementioned write up there’s an imbedded video where he talks about his change up, but that’s from 2016.

Conine (accent is on the INE, not the CON) is worth watching. He’ll have to crack top 30 lists that are updated at midseason, and a Corpus call-up will definitely raise eyebrows. TCB fans, you’ve been warned, the next super sleeper is on the radar!