Recently, Halo Hangout stopped by the home of the LA Angels Minor League club, the Inland Empire 66’ers, to chat with Infielder Connor Justus has found a massive resurgence after returning to the Class A Advanced club.
LA Angels Connor Justus is currently playing the best baseball he has since starting his professional baseball career with the Angels. The Angels infielder has found a jolt in his game since returning to the Inland Empire 66’ers to close out the 2018 season. It’s always good to see a player perform at a clip higher than what they once did in a previous season with the same team, but what Connor Justus has done since returning to Class A Advanced is stunning, not only in terms of the talent he’s showing but also his ability to harness these talents.
Heres a little perspective; in 2017 with the Inland Empire 66’ers, Connor Justus hit .202/.319/.299 over an entire season. There was clearly development to be had for the then 22-year old, yet only a year later we’re seeing him transform into a completely different ballplayer. During his time with the 66ers in this second half, Justus has swung the bat to a destructive .298/.405/.548 clip. Within that time include 6 HR’s, one of them being a grand slam.
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Things are looking up big time for the young infielder Connor Justus.
Connor Justus #10
H.H: How have you been feeling since rejoining the 66ers?
Justus: Great! The team has been on a roll here recently. It’s been fun getting back with these guys, getting some work in, getting my feet back under me; I’m really figuring some stuff out. A lot of good things are happening, I’m just trying to take advantage of every opportunity.
H.H: Since rejoining the 66ers you’ve slugged over .500. What have you been working on with your swing to drive the ball so well?
Justus: Honestly, it’s a whole new mindset. Taking it at-bat by at-bat and just trying to get a great pitch to hit and hit it hard. It’s very simple yet there are a lot of things that go into it, a lot of early work. Really, just the whole mindset, the whole work ethic. Everything that leads up to the game so I can be confident going into the game and going out to compete every day.
H.H: Your OBP is over .400, what’s in your approach that’s bringing this consistency?
Justus: The coaching staff here is great. The guys in front of me get on base all the time, so it makes my job really easy. It’s really easy hitting behind those guys because once they’re on base they make it a lot easier for me. Really it’s just been a whole lot of fun playing this last month, and that’s all there is to it.
2018 66ers Slash Line: .298/.405/.548
At the time of this interview Connor Justus had already notched 4 HR’s with the 66ers, and now he’s added two more to the total bringing his season total to six. In fact, his 6 HR’s in this last month surpasses his entire 2017 season with the 66ers in which he hit 5 HR in 116 games. Justus has already slammed 6 HR’s in only 28 games, and to top it off his OPS of .953 displays the worlds upon worlds of improvement made by Justus; in 2017 he topped out at a .618 OPS, his highest previous total being .895 with the Rookie League Orem Owlz.
It’s wild to think that at one point in time Justus was slugging under .300. Over the last seven days Justus has collected a massive .350/.458/.700 slash line, and over the last month he’s hit to the tune of .308/.404/.593.
It’s like we’re looking at two completely different ballplayers, and in a sense we are. The Connor Justus of today has matured lightyears beyond his previous experiences with the Angels organization. If what we’re seeing is barely Connor Justus beginning the process of realizing his true talents we might just be looking at one of the more talented hitters in the Angels farm system.
2016 Rookie Year Slash Line: .344/.465/.430
H.H: What aspects of your game are you working on as the season wraps up?
Justus: Just trying to stay consistent, just like you said. Defensively you can improve everyday, get better and faster. As the season winds down and as things start to turn that second half corner I’m really just trying to be as consistent as possible and keep winning ball games.
H.H: You 4 HR’s with the 66’ers almost match your entire 2017 total. How has your power development been feeling this season?
Justus: I’ve been working on things with Brian Betancourth, our hitting coach, and just trying to figure things out. It’s a day by day process; they come in streaks and it’s fun when they do come and you just have to ride the wave as long as you can. Like I said, it’s consistency and trying to win ball games. Whatever I can do to help.
H.H: How has your defensive development been feeling since rejoining the 66ers?
Justus: Awesome. Everytime the coaching staff comes out here it’s great, having that coaching staff that comes out here and works with you every single day. It’s been so much fun, and like I say “Winning isn’t so bad either” [laughs]
Last 28 Days: .308/.404/.593
The best part about Connor Justus’ development is that it’s only truly beginning. What we’ve seen from him since 2016 has been an athlete finding the pieces to his puzzle so he can put them together. Now we’re starting to see Justus put that puzzle together in a big way. Not only has he proven his value as a prospect within the Angels system, he’s displayed time and time again his value as a teammate and an overall person. In the first half of 2018, Justus struggled with the Double A Mobile Baybears before being sent down to Class A Advanced.
In Justus’ own words “A lot of people would have checked out.”
That just goes to show how mentally mature this young athlete is; someone who takes pride in their work ethic and ability to seize the moment. Justus’ moment to recollect himself with the 66’ers and put himself in a better position talent and value wise than his last trip may not have felt the same for certain players. As always, the human factor of the game persists and with that you can imagine how many other athletes would become dejected, even scornful of being sent down a level.
Yet Justus was neither of those, what he felt was gratitude at receiving the opportunity to better himself. On that note, Justus hasn’t just bettered himself, he’s shed the cocoon of what he once was and is beginning to spread his wings far and wide.
2018 Home Stats: .263/.380/.423
H.H: Your success with the 66’ers is lightyears ahead of what you did with the team in 2017. What have you learned since then?
Justus: It’s been a maturity, a growth and who I am as a player. Figuring out what my strengths are, what I can improve on and trying to get better every single day. Whatever this team needs to win is what I try to do every single day. Just trying to have fun with it and be as consistent as possible.
H.H: How has your mentality evolved through your minor league journey?
Justus: That’s exactly it. It’s a journey, it’s a process in every single thing. After being sent down from Double A and coming back here… a lot of people would have checked out and a lot of people wouldn’t have taken advantage of the opportunity. I just see it as a growth process with things I can improve on. I’m just so thankful for the Angels for giving me the opportunity to come down here and work on things and help a team win. Where I go I’m going to compete and play the hardest I can. God gave me this opportunity I’m going to take advantage of every moment.
Connor Justus #10
There are a lot of players to get excited about within the Angels organization, which is a testament to how far Connor Justus has taken himself in truly finding himself as a ballplayer. As of today, Connor Justus isn’t struggling to find himself, he’s bashing his way to a brand new “him”. What were once struggles now become pure growth. Of course with baseball it isn’t expected that he’ll maintain this stride for the rest of his career, yet he’s showing that he has both the ability and drive to maintain the biggest tool in baseball. One’s ability to face challenge and topple it over.
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That’s the mark of a true athlete, one who can topple challenge after challenge. We all know from enjoying the sport of baseball that the challenges never stop. Once you’ve mastered one facet of the game another comes to test your skill. It’s a constant cycle, and as a ballplayer the one talent that will take you to the top is your attitude and ability when it comes to facing challenges.
Connor Justus has not only the attitude to thrive in the Majors, but the ability as well. If his 2018 2nd half surge is anything to go by, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Connor Justus rising within the Angels system. At this rate we’ll be watching him display his truest prowess as an athlete at the big league level sooner than you think.