Conner Capel has taken batting practice plenty of times against baseball legend Roger Clemens, a close family friend."I don't have any bragging rights," Capel joked about stepping up to the plate against a pitcher nicknamed the "Rocket" thanks to velocity that reached well into the 90s.
Conner Capel has taken batting practice plenty of times against baseball legend Roger Clemens, a close family friend.
"I don't have any bragging rights," Capel joked about stepping up to the plate against a pitcher nicknamed the "Rocket" thanks to velocity that reached well into the 90s.
Growing up as the son of former Major League pitcher Mike Capel, and as a friend of the Clemens family, has helped Capel hone his craft as a professional baseball player. Being immersed in baseball culture has been a blessing for the 20-year-old Texan in his full-season debut with Lake County.
Capel, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound left-handed-hitting center fielder, has made major strides against Midwest League pitching. The Captains slugger is batting .251 with 22 homers and 61 RBIs. He's ripped 22 doubles and seven triples and boasts a slugging percentage of .494. He's also finishing the season strong, adding 30 points to his batting average in the past month.
In his only pro experience last year, Capel didn't send the ball flying over the outfield fences at all. He hit .210 in 35 games with no homers, and his slugging percentage was .290.
Turning home plate into a launching pad in 2017 has helped Capel skyrocket on prospect charts, moving from No. 30 to No. 14 for the Indians. He's helped Lake County set a franchise season record with 142 homers, hitting a blast on Aug. 6 that shattered the prevous best of 119.
Capel, who was selected by Cleveland in the fifth round of the 2016 Draft, said his power surge has been a matter of gaining knowledge and then applying it at the plate.
"I just worked with our coaches and coordinators in the Indians organization," Capel said. "I made a few adjustments at the beginning of the season with my stance and my lower half, and it's paid off. I've been sticking with it. I like it a lot.
"The adjustments weren't necessarily for my power," Capel explained. "We did it for another reason, but out of that, power came into it. The adjustments helped my power a lot. They allowed me to get better swings on the baseball and become more consistent and try and barrel everything up. I'm trying to keep my head still and not lift it as much when I load. I'm trying to work toward the pitcher and stay down through it."
Capel said he wasn't fazed by not smacking a homer in Rookie ball last year.
"I never have been a power hitter," Capel said. "I never tried to hit home runs. I still don't try to hit home runs. If it happens, it happens. I just try to put a good swing on the ball and put the barrel on it."
Capel's father, Mike, and Roger Clemens pitched against each other in high school, and then together wore the burnt orange of the Texas Longhorns baseball team. His father helped him prepare for the pro baseball experience, and learning from Clemens and playing youth baseball with Kody and Kacy Clemens enhanced his readiness.
"My dad has helped me a bunch," Capel said. "Talking to my dad and Roger Clemens, it's helped give me an edge in baseball, especially on the mental side. They've helped me a lot, from when I was young, about the mind-set you have to have. Every day, you can't get too high, and you can't get too low. Tomorrow's a new day. You can go 4-for-4 with four home runs, and then the next day go 0-for-4 with four K's. You have to stay even-keeled every day and just grind.
"Kody and Kacy are like my brothers," Capel added. "I talk to them every day. We all have the same goals. It's good to work with them to get better in the off-season. They've helped me so much."
In briefRed-hot Dragons:
Dayton has won nine of its last 10 games and 12 of its last 15 games to move to 67-67 for the season. The Dragons have discovered winning ways on the road, taking six of their last seven road games after winning just four of their previous 25. Strong pitching has ignited the Dragons' hot play. Dayton pitchers have only surrendered six walks in the prevous 10 games. Starting pitchers for Dayton have gone 8-0 over their last nine games and boast an ERA of 2.00 in that stretch. Dayton's speed has also played a key role. The Dragons stole four bases in three straight games against Great Lakes, pushing their Midwest League-leading total to 161, the team's highest since 2011.Not-so-Hot Rods:
Bowling Green has followed a seven-game winning streak with a nine-game losing streak. The Hot Rods have been outscored 34-9 during the tailspin and have only 33 hits in their last seven games. The Hot Rods have scored one or no runs in six of their last seven contests. The losing streak is their worst since a 13-game skid in 2014. Bowling Green's Kenny Rosenberg
provided a silver lining in a 3-1 loss to West Michigan, striking out seven to increase his team-leading total to 130. He is No. 3 all-time in Hot Rods history for strikeouts in a season and has the most since Enny Romero
whiffed 140 in 2011.No. 1 with the Kernels:
Cedar Rapids, which has been part of the Midwest League since 1962, boasts a top overall Draft pick for the first time in franchise history. Royce Lewis
, an 18-year-old shortstop chosen No. 1 in 2017 by the Twins, played his first game for the Kernels on Aug. 17. Lewis, who signed for $6.725 million, is hitting .310 with two doubles, one homer and 10 RBIs in 14 games. He has 14 strikeouts and four walks. Lewis hit .271 in 36 games in the Gulf Coast League, to go along with three homers, 17 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. He struck out 17 times and drew 19 walks.
Curt Rallo is a contributor to MiLB.com.