To reflect back on July 31, 2018, Cardinals fans will think of it as the day the team traded Tommy Pham to the Rays in a deal that is still hard to get behind more than a year later. On the same day, in a move that (in a sense, due to roster capacity) stemmed off the Pham trade, St. Louis sent Oscar Mercado to the Indians for prospects. One of those prospects is Conner Capel, and he has really settled in to his new organization.
Capel is a 22-year-old, left-handed-hitting outfielder who was drafted by Cleveland in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB Draft out of high school. In 2019, Capel spent the majority of the season with Double-A Springfield and impressed many with a memorable cup of coffee at Triple-A. In 98 Double-A games this year, Capel had an OPS of .635 with 12 doubles, nine homers, and one triple. In a stinted promotion to Triple-A Memphis in mid-June, Capel batted .433 over eight games, driving in seven with five doubles and two long balls.
This fall, Capel was one of eight players to represent the Cardinals in the annual Arizona Fall League. Capel joined Elehuris Montero, Ivan Herrera, Griffin Roberts, Seth Elledge, Kramer Robertson, Roel Ramirez, and Kodi Whitley to play with the Glendale Desert Dogs in exhibition play. The Desert Dogs finished the season on a three-game winning streak, with an overall record of 14-15. In between offseason plans, Conner was kind enough to answer a few questions for Viva El Birdos.
VEB: Not many get to participate in the Arizona Fall League, and you got that chance a few weeks ago. What are some of your top takeaways from playing for the Desert Dogs?
Connor: It was a great experience going to the AFL and playing for the Desert Dogs. It is something I’ll always remember. It’s always fun meeting new guys and coaches. I definitely got something out of it that I will take into next season. It gave me a great opportunity to continue to try and improve my game against really good competition.
VEB: Since joining the Cardinals in 2018 at the trade deadline, have you benefited from working with a new staff and teammates?
C: Yes absolutely. I think the more people you meet in baseball the better. You can always pick different people’s brains and learn a new way to do something.
VEB: You hit .433 with seven extra-base hits in eight games at Memphis in 2019. How did it feel to make such a stellar first impression at the Triple-A level?
C: I was just trying to take advantage of the opportunity and make the most of it. I didn’t do anything different or change anything. I just tried to have good ABs and stay consistent.
VEB: In 838 innings of fieldwork in your professional career, you have 16 assists and just one error; it’s clear that you are a strong defender. Is defense the area of your skill-set that you are most proud of, and have you always played left field?
C: I take pride in all aspects of my game, and I am always trying to improve. I think defense is just as important as the offensive side of the game. If I’m not hitting well, then I want to try to help my team win by playing good defense. This  was the first year I’ve played left field on a daily basis, but I feel comfortable at all three outfield positions.
VEB: What are your personal goals for 2020?
C: I just want to be consistent at the plate and [in the field]. I’ve been working with the hitting coaches and coordinators on being able to do that next season. I want to put together good ABs and not give any away.
Video is credited to the official St. Louis Cardinals YouTube channel.