Connor Riley, the Angels 8th round selection out of the University of South Carolina Aiken, was kind enough to answer some questions about his baseball background and the experience of going through the MLB Draft process. The right hander from Aurora, Illinois was selected 235th overall on the 2nd day of the MLB Draft.
On the draft day experience and his knowledge of where he may get drafted: “I had a feeling I was going to go the second day. That’s what a lot of the scouts had been telling me and my advisors had heard the same thing. At the same time, I was sort of skeptical because I’m a senior so I didn’t really know how all of that was going to work out. So I started watching it when the 3rd round started and I was just hoping. Teams were calling me and asking if I would take this much money. Then I was told to be ready to be picked between the 6th and 10th rounds and I was like cool, sounds good. I waited and didn’t hear anything until the Angels called and were like “Hey, are you good with this amount of money?”. And I said absolutely. I’m ready to get going. They called me back and said they’re taking me in the next round(8th). It was sort of surreal because I didn’t expect to go so high but I’m super thrilled that they think that highly of me, especially as a senior. Once I heard my name called, it sort of sunk in that I was a top 10 round talent. My dad and I went out to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for the draft. My dad got to hear my name called so that was a pretty cool experience for him. He actually lost it and just started going crazy.”
On his crazy strikeout totals(130 in 83 innings) in his senior season: “It actually started last summer. The strikeouts started coming in the summer. I actually broke the record for the Coastal Plain Summer League(100 strikeouts in 66.2 innings). I was actually only the 3rd guy to reach 100 strikeouts in a season. I really learned how to pitch and see what works and what doesn’t work. So I really took what I learned over to school and really executed my pitches. You know I wasn’t really chasing strikeouts. It was all about going out there to compete and knowing the strikeouts were going to come. I knew I threw hard enough and my off speed was good enough to get strikeouts so as long as I wasn’t really thinking about striking someone out, the strikeouts would come. It was sort of surreal to see that many strikeouts at the end of the season though.”
On his pitch repertoire and style of pitching: “So I throw a four seam fastball that has a little arm side run and a true 12-6 curveball. I started developing a slider about halfway through this year so that’s a work in progress but it started to become a good pitch for me. My change up is a pitch that I hope I can develop more in the professional ranks. As for my pitching style, I don’t try to nitpick around the zone. I try to go right after hitters and allow them to put the ball in play. I really like to attack everybody with the fastball and use the offspeed when I need to. If the hitters hit it hard, they hit it hard but most of the time they haven’t so far. I just try to go after people.”
On any favorite teams or players growing up: “So I’m originally from Chicago so I was a Cubs fan growing up but now I’m an Angels fan. As far as players I watched, I watched Mark Prior and Kerry Wood when I was really young. I really got the “go after hitters” mentality from those 2 guys. Once I really started getting into baseball and grew up, I really started to like Marcus Stroman a lot. He’s a smaller guy and I’m a shorter guy(6’0″). He goes after people and he has a lot of fun on the mound and wears his emotions on his sleeve. I try to do the same thing. I’m very serious when it comes to the game but I like to have a lot of fun. It’s a child’s game and I just like to have fun and be with my teammates and make people laugh.”
On the one thing he’s most excited about moving forward with his professional baseball career: “It’s about getting to know more people and be a part of an organization that is really engrossed into developing talent. I actually got to work out with the Angels and all of their player personnel guys and they expressed interest in myself, my family and other things I was interested in. We vibed really well and I’m thrilled to be a part of the Angels organization and continue on.”