June 24, 2016
The Toronto Blue Jays are in the process of signing their selections from the Rule IV draft that took place earlier this month. While it’s tough to sign every prospect, it is important to ink as many guys as possible to help fill holes within their organization.
Right-handed pitcher Connor Eller was one of the quickest players to sign his Blue Jays deal as he officially signed his contract on June 16th. Eller’s fast decision was expected as he was a 4-year college selection that was at a point where it was go professional, or call it a career.
Obviously Eller wasn’t ready to hang up his cleats just yet as he spent many years chasing his baseball dreams. His hard work paid off when he heard his name selected by the Blue Jays in the 22nd round (672nd overall).
“My draft experience was incredible. I was able to be around my entire family and hearing my name called is a memory I will never forget,” stated Eller. “Obviously there were a lot of emotions and uncertainty of where and when I would be taken as I was a college senior and no one told me what rounds to expect.”
“I did know the Blue Jays were interested in me,” Eller added. “I received questionnaires from them in the fall and one of the area scouts gave my mom a business card after one of my games. I was also invited to attend a pre-draft workout with the club which I did attend.”
Prior to becoming a professional Eller completed a successful collegiate career split between Crowder Community College and Ouachita Baptist University.
Feeling that his experience at Crowder really prepared him mentally for the challenges of playing on higher level teams. Eller has a lot respect for the obstacles that were placed in front of him during his first collegiate stop.
“Crowder is where I attest to my failures playing a huge contributor to my success,” explained Eller. “Crowder is a program that demands competition, hard work, and grit from their players. I loved it. I developed into my body and as a pitcher which set the ground work for my career. I was young and had not mastered the mental game.”
Building off his experience at the junior college level, Eller elevated his game more at Ouachita. Putting up excellent numbers in his two seasons at OBU, Eller went 15-7 with a 2.88 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 196 2/3 innings pitched.
“Ouachita provided me with an exceptional opportunity of competitiveness right out of the gate,” said Eller. “With that I made it my priority to be the best I could be. I was a part of a great successful club as a junior and it really pushed my entire game to the next level. At Ouachita my eyes were opened to taking care of my body in terms of nutrition, flexibility, and durability.”
Finding success on the mound with his five pitch repertoire. Eller uses a mix of a 4-seam fastball, sinker, spiked slider, cutter, and changeup. Eller’s fastball usually sits in the 88 to 93 miles per hour range, but it can reach as high as 95 at times during the season.
Explaining how he uses his fastball to his advantage on the mound. Eller had a specific approach to challenging hitters in college. The righty is hoping it’ll translate into professional baseball as well.
“In college I wanted to make people beat my fastball prove they could do something to it before I showed my off-speed,” explained Eller. “I love throwing inside to hitters because many times hitters did not expect it so it worked to my advantage to jam guys or freeze them inside. I go to my sinker in certain situations if I need to force a ground ball double play, or to really get on guys hands.”
Another way Eller keeps hitters off-balance is by using a lower arm angle to give him more deception on all of his pitches. Explaining how the lower angle has helped him so far in his career Eller hopes to continue having success with the same approach moving forward.
“The lower arm angle makes everything move for me even my 4-seam fastball gets some late run and sink,” stated Eller. “Ever since I began pitching my junior season of high school I was told by my coaches that I step across my body with a lean over and that allows the low ¾ arm slot. The lower arm angle and crossover also makes it look like I am stepping right at the hitter.”
Ready for the challenges that being a professional pitcher will entail, Eller admits that he feels prepared for the obstacles that will be placed in front of him soon. While he doesn’t exactly know how everything will go for him at this stage of the game. The prospect is looking forward to the instruction and travel that will come in the upcoming seasons.
“I am looking forward to competing against the higher level completion. The challenge is what I look forward to most before every game,” said Eller. “Along with that I am excited about the instruction that I will get from the organization. Playing baseball in states I’ve never played in or visited before will be an adventure as well.”
Eller’s adventure will be beginning this week as he’s been assigned to the Blue Jays advanced-rookie ball club in Bluefield, West Virginia. From there Eller can continue to make memories in the game of baseball as he continues to climb the ladder.
Blue Jays fans hope that Connor Eller enjoys every aspect of his journey as a member of their minor league system.