With the Angels constant souring on Hank Conger reaching an all-time high a decision from inside the organization was made to bring veteran catcher Chris Snyder into the mix earlier last week. Hammerin' Hank has been stashed in the minors for a while, and it was just a few years ago that he was touted as the Angels "catcher of the future". Now it seems as if Hank's catcher of the future status is destined to be fulfilled with another organization, is the Chris Snyder signing a fulfillment of this unfortunate notion?
To be completely fair, Hank has had his chances to break into the club for a while and I fully believe that him not being able to cover for Chris Iannetta during his DL time was the final nail in the coffin. Conger's inability to stay off the DL ultimately ruined his last real chance at cracking the club without any serious pressure from the organization. Now with Snyder competing for a backup job is it possible that this is finally how Conger goes out? While Conger's offensive capabilities have been incredibly promising this spring his defense has been absolutely horrendous. Conger's inability to nail a simple throw to second is what drove the Angels to bring on some insurance in Chris Snyder. We all know how Scioscia gets over the defensive prowess of his catchers, it's defense or bust and if you can't live up to his execrations he will ride your ass into the ground. Conger's defensive ability is sub-par at best, and we all know that Scioscia will drive Conger's mental state into the ground if he continues to struggle defensively across the season.
Here's the thing…..while Conger's defense has been shabbier than one can define this spring, Snyder has become a black hole when it comes to offense. In his 9 years in the Majors Snyder has only hit over .250 three times, and while his ability to get on base is decent at best he doesn't make up for his poor average with other aspects of his game like Iannetta does. Conger on the other hand has shown that the power potential that been touted might finally be coming into the picture, in 36 Spring Training at-bats Conger has slugged over .600 with a 1.000+ OPS. Even though Congers health and defense are a liability, his offense and familiarity with the Angels pitching staff give him a strong edge to work with. Given Scioscia's pickiness with his catcher’s defensive abilities I wouldn't put it past him to campaign for Snyder over Conger.
So let’s say Conger doesn't make the club, what options are open for the young catcher? He could always go back to the minors to wait for his next opportunity, but it feels that he might have soured beyond the point of the Angels continuing to wait for his development. They could keep Conger stashed in the minors until the trade deadline swings around, we all know the Angels are probably going to need to swing a trade for one thing or another. They could always trade him before the season starts, but that seems highly unlikely to me since they will need some kind of fallback option in case Snyder fails. The Angels just won't straight up release him, if he doesn't make the club he'll get traded at some point up to and during the trade deadline. Conger will likely be stashed in the majors as an insurance policy to Snyder until it's time to make a trade, unless Snyder gets hurt or is just straight up ineffective. I do believe that Conger will end the year on some big league roster, be it with the Angels or another club. Conger is unlikely to see any more significant time in the minors; he won't be spending any more than half a season there in my opinion.
I don't believe that Snyder will win the job over Conger, he may be slightly more gifted defensively but I don't see that giving him any significant value over Conger. The youth that Conger brings to the table in addition to his power potential give him the edge over Snyder, especially with the recent Kendrys Morales trade. I've touched on this before in a previous article, but Congers left-handed power stroke brings some power from the left side of the plate that the Angels seriously need with Kendrys departure. Conger won't be bringing any monster power like Kendrys, but he does have the potential to hit 15-20 bombs (maybe even 20+ in a good year!) and crack at least 25-30 doubles a season. Conger has gap-to-gap type power, he won't clear many fences but he will split the defenders and cash in on many RBI situations.
There's a lot to be said from this situation, if Snyder was brought on board wouldn't the Angels brass seriously consider him as an option? I don't believe this; I think he's just here to push Conger into getting his defensive game together. I know pressure isn't always the best way to get the desired performance out of a player, yet in Conger's situation there is little time for him to get his game together. If Snyder doesn't make the Opening Day roster (which I don't believe he will) he can opt out of his contract with the Angels. It would be smart for him to accept his minor league assignment however, as it seems that the bigger trade chips from the Angels could be Hank Conger and Andrew Romine come the trade deadline.
I fully believe Conger will at least make the Opening Day roster as the Angels back-up catcher, it's just a question of whether or not he will be able to keep his job.