Mark Conner is the new head of amateur scouting for the Detroit Tigers.

Scott Harris has wasted little time remaking Detroit’s front office. The Tigers’ new president of baseball operations fired hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh and scouting director Scott Pleis. He didn’t renew the contract of longtime trainer Kevin Rand. And the team agreed to part ways with front office mainstay David Chadd.

Harris is well regarded throughout baseball, but scouting isn’t necessarily his strength. Accordingly, last week he named former Tampa Bay Rays scouting director Rob Metzler as Detroit’s new vice president and assistant general manager. And today Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press broke the news that Harris and Metzler had hired Mark Conner to be the club’s new director of amateur scouting.

Who is Mark Conner?

Mark Conner played catcher for Cumberland University, an NAIA school in Tennessee. He spent roughly a decade in coaching before joining the San Diego Padres as an amateur scout in 2010. Tigers manager A.J. Hinch was the vice president of pro scouting for San Diego at the same time.

In late 2014 Conner was named director of amateur scouting for the Padres, a role he held until late 2021. In Conner’s time as scouting director in San Diego the Padres signed 24 future big-league players. That includes a pair of late-round gems who went on to be All-Stars in David Bednar (35th round, 2016) and Ty France (34th round, 2015).

Baseball America named the Padres’ system the best in baseball in 2018, and MLP Pipeline had San Diego number one in 2019. With Conner as scouting director the Padres made a habit of taking high-upside high-schoolers at the top of the draft. From 2015-2021 the Padres drafted 23 prep players in the first five rounds. Compare that to the Detroit Tigers, who drafted nine such players in the same time.

Trading Places

Conner’s lasting legacy in San Diego may be providing the Padres with the means to make huge trades. His draft picks were key pieces in deals for Trent Grisham, Jurickson Profar, Jake Cronenworth, Mike Clevinger, Austin Nola, Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, and Joe Musgrove, among others.

Conner’s final draft in San Diego may end up his best. The Padres used their first three selections (picks 27, 62, and 71 overall) on high-school shortstop Jackson Merrill , high-school outfielder James Wood, and college pitcher Robert Gasser. FanGraphs considers Wood the ninth best prospect in baseball, and Merrill the 22nd best prospect overall.

Wood was perhaps the key piece in San Diego’s trade for Juan Soto and Josh Bell. Meanwhile, Gasser was the top prospect moved in the Josh Hader deal.

Padres general manager A.J. Preller removed Conner from his role as scouting director late in the 2021 season. However, the Padres were floundering at the time, and Preller may have been trying to appease angry fans.

Mark Conner has a strong track record, and it looks like the Detroit Tigers landed a good one. At the very least, Tigers fans should expect a bit more excitement in the draft.

Photo credit: AP

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By Published On: October 29th, 2022Categories: Detroit Tigers, MLB

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