After having been drafted in the seventh round of the 2009 draft from the University of Washington, the right-handed hitting outfielder was assigned to the highest level of any new Cardinal, the full-season Quad Cities River Bandits of the Midwest League.
A month later, Conley was spending more time on the pines than in the outfield and when he did receive a plate appearance, he did almost nothing with it. Through 45 at-bats, he was hitting just .200 with just one RBI and an OPS of .541.
The Cardinals made the decision to bump the 6-foot-4, 209-pounder down to short-season Batavia to start August. There, manager Mark DeJohn was anxiously awaiting Conley's arrival.
"His first day, I put him in late in the game and he doubled. I just stuck him in the lineup every day and he produced," DeJohn recalled.
Boy, did he ever. In his first seven New-York Penn League games, Conley batted .458 (11-for-24), including three doubles, three home runs, five RBI and slugging .958. The right-handed hitting newcomer was promptly named the league's Player of the Week.
DeJohn was sent a diamond in the rough. "Kyle is a very intriguing guy because he has a combination of speed and power. He isn't a base stealer, but he is a big, athletic kid with power and good "underway" speed – when he gets underway, he can run! He can score from first on a double in either gap. He had a good knowledge of the strike zone and hit for good average. He hits with power, too." (His Batavia line: .385/.452/.752)
Conley hit with so much power in fact that his eight August home runs not only led the Muckdogs for the season, it was the second-highest total in the entire league in 2009. This despite the fact he played in just 29 NY-Penn contests.
That was good enough to snag the Cardinals organization's Player of the Month nod for August and concluded his short, but successful summer by picking up his second and the league's final Player of the Week award for the period of August 31-September 7.
In terms of outfield defense, Conley is good but can be even better. Based on his tools and approach to the game, significant improvement seems most possible.
"Conley's got some arm strength in the outfield. He is probably an average defender and needs to get a little better there but he's got some range in the outfield. He is a really determined guy with a lot of desire and good work habits. You tell him to do something and he's doing it. You don't have to watch him," explained DeJohn.
As an unfinished product, Conley still has some areas which he needs to strengthen at the plate as well.
"I feel that in the future, Kyle may need to make better use of the opposite field a bit because he has power that way. If they pitch him away, sometimes he tries to hook around the ball," the manager said.
There is no doubt that DeJohn sees a long runway ahead for a unique talent like Conley.
"Kyle's just a guy with a lot of desire to get better and to play in the big leagues," DeJohn observed. "He's got the tools so it is a matter of if he can keep doing the same things at higher levels. The last two years, we really haven't had a player with those kinds of abilities – a kid that can run and with power like that and a pretty good arm. He's just a raw kid.
"He is a real intriguing guy because he has all these raw tools. It is a matter of him getting to play more and getting more experience. He's pretty green in terms of knowing the game a little bit but he's the kind of guy you want to put out there for 400 or 500 at-bats and see what he can do," DeJohn said.
That seems to be just the plan for Conley in 2010. DeJohn sees the potential for a big year for the outfielder in his projected return to the Midwest League next season.
"Batavia is a relatively hard place to hit home runs. The ball goes out better in Quad Cities. If this kid plays a full season with Quad Cities, he is capable of hitting 20 to 25 home runs and be a very productive player. He can turn on the ball and pull it and hit it out to any part of the ballpark," DeJohn concluded.
(Note: Former unsigned Cardinals draft pick Kyle Russell led the 2009 Midwest League with 26 home runs and only one other player had more than 20.)
Congratulations to Kyle Conley, our Scout.com Batavia Muckdogs Player of the Year for 2009.
Other contenders: This was primarily a two-horse race as Conley's primary competition for the Batavia Player of the Year award was infielder Alan Ahmady. The infielder ranked second in the NYPL in OBP (.407), third in walks (47), fourth in runs (46) and tied for ninth in hits (71) before being suspended for 50 games following the season.
Other standouts in individual areas include shortstop Devin Goodwin, whose 19 doubles placed him in a tie for fifth in the NYPL. Outfielder D'Marcus Ingram's 18 steals (90% success rate) ranked him in a tie for eighth in the circuit. In addition to Conley, two other partial-season players hit over .300 - Matt Adams (.346) and Ryde Rodriguez (.311).
Note: To follow our entire series of Players of the Year at each level of the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system, check back here at the Cardinal Nation daily. To see the roster of winners and article schedule, click here.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.
© 2009 stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be broadcast, published, rewritten or redistributed.