A former top organizational prospect, Hank Conger is at an important crossroads in his career with the Los Angeles Angels.
With just one minor league option left, the 25-year old is running out of opportunities to establish himself as part of the team’s core. He’d been brought up for disappointing stints before, most notably in 2011, when he was given 48 starts in 59 appearances to show that his gaudy minor league numbers could translate into big-league results.
It didn’t happen, as Conger posted a poor .201/.280/.330 triple-slash over 253 PA scattered across parts of three seasons, never showing that he could be anything more than a mediocre backup.
This spring, that role is what the Angels are giving Conger an opportunity to earn. The team signed Chris Ianetta to a three-year deal in the off-season, and with Bobby Wilson gone, the backup role is wide open for the former first round pick to take.
Conger knows it too, acknowledging that “this is the time where [he] really need to prove [him]self”, or risk having the prospect label permanently being replaced with that of a bust.
So naturally, the switch-hitter needed to get off to a good start to stick around in the bigs.
At the rate he’s going, though, not only will Conger easily make his case over John Hester, but he might even give Ianetta’s playing time in 2013 a run for its money too.
Having appeared in just a pair of Spring Training games so far, Conger is making his opportunities count, and turning heads as he goes along. His four hits over five at-bats is good for tops among the Angels, and with six RBIs, the catcher hopeful finds himself tied for third in the majors in the counting numbers.
What also helps is that while he has having his early coming-out party on Monday with a 3-for-3, five-RBI day at work, his competitors – Hester and Ianetta – have just a pair of singles between them over nine at-bats. It’s only been two games, but Conger has already matched his home run (one) and RBI totals from last spring.
The early hot streak won’t be nearly enough to supplant a guy with a three-year contract, of course, but Conger took an important step towards that future by establishing himself as the early leader in the race to be a backup, and to get the Angels to see what he could be capable of in an expended role, if he can keep it up.
Well, if he wanted the Angels attention – well, he certainly has it now.