When the Cleveland Indians took Conner Capel in the fifth round last year, he was quickly dubbed one of the “biggest steals of the draft.”
The son of former big leaguer Mike Capel, Conner was a standout high school outfielder in Texas, winning the national championship with his traveling team, the Houston Banditos.
Capel made some minor headlines this offseason when he was the only high school player from the 2016 Indians draft who began the year in full-season Lake County this past April, beating out top prospects like Will Benson, Nolan Jones, and others.
So far this season, he’s put up a .216/.297/.433 slash line but notably is sixth in the Indians system in home runs with 14 and second in triples with five.
The 20-year-old spoke with Let’s Go Tribe about his relentless work ethic, adjusting to full-season ball and his family ties to Roger Clemens in this exclusive interview:
Brian Hemminger (Let’s Go Tribe): Your dad was a pitcher who briefly made it to the major leagues, but did you ever want to be anything other than a baseball player growing up?
Conner Capel: No, I’ve always wanted to play baseball. I grew up loving the game. It’s always been a part of me.
Brian Hemminger: You weren’t the only legacy player among your teammates. You played alongside Kody Clemens, son of Roger Clemens in high school, right?
Conner Capel: Yes sir. He’s my best friend. My dad was teammates with Roger when they attended the University of Texas so our families have always been close. It also helped because I wasn’t as wide-eyed when I arrived in Cleveland after being drafted. I could focus on the game that I’ve always wanted to play.
Brian Hemminger: With your dad having such a strong legacy with Texas, having been a College World Series champion, with your best friend Kody committing to Texas, was it difficult to turn away from your own commitment to Texas and go pro with the Indians?
Conner Capel: Yeah, it was a very difficult decision. It happened quick but I’m glad I decided to do what I did. It’s all worked out and I’m happy.
Brian Hemminger: You’re very respectful, was that just how you were raised?
Conner Capel: Yes sir. I was raised to try to always treat everyone with respect, that’s just what was instilled in me growing up and I’ve always tried to adhere to that.
Brian Hemminger: I know baseball is the focus, but what do you like to do in your downtime when you just need to get away from the game and recharge the batteries a bit?
Conner Capel: I play video games. I like Call of Duty. I usually play with Kody, Kacy (Clemens) and my brother and a couple other friends. We all just play together online and catch up with each other. It’s good talking to them and staying in touch with them. I also like hunting and fishing in the offseason. Whenever I have time, I go out to the ranch and hunt and fish as much as I can.
Brian Hemminger: Well you’ve got a unique opportunity being in the minor leagues in Ohio. There’s some great fishing in Ohio on Lake Erie with walleye and perch and everything. Have you had a chance to get out there yet?
Conner Capel: That’s what I’ve heard. I haven’t had a chance to get out there yet but I’ve talked to my teammate Mitch Longo and he loves to fish too. I’ll definitely try and get out there at some point.
Brian Hemminger: So far, just about everyone I’ve talked to has had a Netflix show they can’t stop binging. Is there anything that you just can’t get enough of when you’ve got some free time?
Conner Capel: I watch Shooter a lot and I’ve been watching Sons of Anarchy lately. It’s good, I love it.
Brian Hemminger: Something I’m real interested in is your work ethic. Early scouting reports well before the 2016 draft were saying you weren’t the fastest guy, but then you put in all this work on your explosiveness and speed. You put in a ton of time and then boom, the speed grade jumps like two levels in the next reports. Can you tell me about the work you put in? Was that a major focus for you in the offseason that year?
Conner Capel: Yes sir. I went to The Lab in Katy, Texas. I worked with the trainers there and I told them I needed to get faster. I had a lot of friends who went there and they got faster so I just went there every day and worked on my speed and lifted and worked on my form and it helped a lot. I really liked it.
Brian Hemminger: Was there anything that you really focused on this past offseason? It seems like whenever you put your mind to something with training, it improves dramatically.
Conner Capel: Yes sir. I just worked on speed some more to maintain it and get better. I also worked to get stronger and bigger every day to gain weight.
Brian Hemminger: Well that’s definitely paid off because all the early reports after the Indians drafted you were saying you had a lot of “untapped power potential” and now, in your first year of full-season baseball, you’re sixth in the entire Indians minor league organization with 14 home runs thus far this season. How does it feel to start tapping in that that potential?
Conner Capel: It feels really good. I’ve put a lot of work in with our coaches and instructors and they’ve helped me a lot. I’ve just got to thank them and remain consistent and try to put a good swing on the ball.
Brian Hemminger: One thing that stood out this year was the fact that you were the only high school player from the Indians 2016 draft who made it to the Opening Day roster for full-season Lake County. Did you feel like that was a testament to all the work you put in this offseason and your strong spring training?
Conner Capel: I honestly don’t worry about that because that’s something I can’t control. All I can do is go out there and play every day and give it all I got. It’s silly to think about it or worry about it. I just focus on what I can control and if they’re impressed enough to put me in a good position, that’s great.
Brian Hemminger: Has it been a difficult adjustment? You only played in the AZL rookie league last year and you skipped short season Mahoning Valley entirely.
Conner Capel: Yeah, at first. It was a big change in competition but I like being challenged and I’ve endured it. I’m just trying improve each day and be consistent.
Brian Hemminger: I’ve read that one of your coaches has been working with you on the mechanics on your swing, things that might not help today but will really help you down the line. What kind of adjustments have you been making with your swing?
Conner Capel: Just using my lower half and my back hip, staying through the ball which has helped a lot. It’s helped with my power so I like it.
Brian Hemminger: This season you’ve been batting the bottom of the order, the middle of the order and currently, you’re leading off for Lake County. Do you approach your at bats differently when you lead off compared to other situations?
Conner Capel: I try to go up to the plate with the same approach no matter what. Just gotta stick to it because otherwise, it’s tougher for the coaches to see if my mechanics are staying consistent.
Brian Hemminger: Where do you feel you still have the most untapped potential with your own game?
Conner Capel: I don’t feel like any part of my game is complete yet so all aspects can be improved. I’m just going to continue working at it and elevating my game and getting better as a player.
You can follow Conner on Twitter @ConnerCapel.