Player Profile 2013: Hank Conger
Time is a funny thing, something that can glide by so slowly yet at the same time, it may be traveling quite too fast for some, especially when it comes to a career. A life is made of many decisions, successes, failures and now, the time has come for young catching prospect Hank Conger. Conger was drafted by the Angels in 2006 out of Huntington Beach High School and aside from coming out of the same area that I grew up in (surf city will always be home.), he was instantly a favorite in my household. I can remember being 16 and anticipating the day that Conger would be the hard hitting and smart catcher that the team always needed, replacing the Jeff Mathis/Bobby Wilson/Josh Paul’s of the world. Those players certainly have their strengths but for a team that used to be an automatic playoff team, the position of catcher was always a struggle for the club in Anaheim.
Conger is a tight spot this season, as it is very likely the last chance he has with the club. Last season, in my first year of writing for LAAI, I wrote about how he should be given an opportunity to make it with the club, to succeed in a position that the Angels so desperately need help in. Times are somewhat easier for the Halos, with Chris Iannetta being on the club, a veteran presence that has certainly helped the team but time, father time, is slowly creeping up on the most important part of most baseball squads. Conger is still young, only 25 years of age, but he has to make the club this season or he’ll be put on waivers, where someone is almost guaranteed to pick him up. It seems like a true shame, a young player who could be the game manager of this dream team, gone from the club. This time however, with spring training among us, it may finally be his time.
The young man is performing quite well in spring training, hitting for an .412 batting average, 10 RBI and two home runs, just to throw in there. His defense is where he needs massive improvement, as evidenced as his three throwing errors in the March 11th loss to the Kansas City Royals and his confidence taking a hit. To me, that’s what is most important with Conger, his confidence in the position that his manager made, in a lot of ways. It may seem like a funny thing to say about a professional athlete but look at former Angel Mike Napoli, he wasn’t up to par with Mike Scioscia’s standards as a catcher and we’ve all seen how that worked out. If Conger can get some of his confidence back and ride this little hot streak he has, he may very well be the starting catcher for the team on Opening Day. It seems like a stretch but when faced between losing the player and giving him another chance, wouldn’t you rather see if his potential can be reached?
Of course, he could end up being the catching version of Brandon Wood, Dallas McPherson and many others. Call me naïve or impossibly optimistic but I believe he will make it this season. The pressure is on him, have no doubts about that. With his lackluster performance in the short times he’s had in the majors, the pressure may turn out to be far too much than he can handle and he could thrive in a different city. However, I don’t think it’ll come to that point. I don’t make a lot of guarantees or promises but I will say this, I believe Hank Conger will make the Angels and he’ll help the club in a surprising way in 2013.
Afterall, why not beat the personal pressure in the season where the club may have the biggest pressure to succeed, that they’ve ever had?
The time and pressure is on, it's time to hit a home run or strike out. Even a bloop single may do.