Jonathan J. Connolly
- Bats Right, Throws Left
- Height 6' 0", Weight 205 lb.
- High School Oneonta High School
Connolly was picked by the Detroit Tigers in the 28th round of the 2001 amateur draft, one selection before future major leaguer Chris Saenz. That summer, he was 1-1 with a 3.82 ERA for the GCL Tigers and 0-1 with 6 runs in 3 innings for the Oneonta Tigers. Spending all of 2002 with his hometown Oneonta club, he had a 5-3, 4.01 record. He allowed 102 hits, most in the New York-Penn League by 8 over Blake Allen (a .293 opponent average).
He turned it around for his career year with the 2003 West Michigan Whitecaps, going 16-3 with a 1.41 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and .211 opponent average; he had been 12-0 with a 0.78 ERA at the All-Star break (on short rest, he was roughed up for 3 runs in one inning in the MWL All-Star Game). He led the Midwest League in ERA by .68 over Brian Whitaker and tied Sam Smith for the most wins. Among Tigers farmhands, he was 4th with 103 strikeouts (between Pat Ahearne and Lee Rodney and easily led in both wins and ERA. Among the affiliated minors, he also posted the best ERA (.26 over #2 Kameron Loe and .52 over #3 Zach Greinke), while tying Smith and Edward Valdez for 5th in wins, one behind Fausto Carmona, Brad Halsey, Travis Blackley and Gabe Ribas. He was named the MWL All-Star LHP and the Tigers Minor League Pitcher of the Year. As he was not a hard-thrower (Baseball America called him a crafty left-hander), he was only listed #19 on the list of top MWL prospects by Baseball America, between Rudy Guillen and Colt Griffin.
He began 2004 with the Lakeland Tigers but after four games (2-2, 3.86) was dealt to the Chicago Cubs for Felix Sanchez. He spent the rest of the year with the Daytona Cubs (9-5, 2.40) and West Tenn Diamond Jaxx (1-0, 1 R in 6 IP). Despite not starting the season in their organization, he tied Shawn Sedlacek for 6th among Cubs farmhands in wins and was .03 shy of ERA leader Clay Rapada. He won his second straight ERA title, leading the Florida State League with a cumulative 2.53 mark, .11 ahead of Jonathan Papelbon. He joined Papelbon, Jonathan Broxton and Ismael Ramirez as the league's All-Star starting pitchers, though Ramirez took Pitcher of the Year honors.
After two ERA titles in a row, he missed most of 2005 with injury (torn rotator cuff and frayed labrum), going 3-2 with a 4.44 ERA for West Tenn. The Cubs let him go. He began 2006 with the independent Nashua Pride, getting one start but making it count (1-0, 2 H, 1 R, 8 K in 7 IP) to win him a second chance in the Tigers chain. He appeared for Lakeland (3-0, 1.66), the Erie SeaWolves (3-4, 6.14 in 10 G) and the Toledo Mud Hens (5.40 ERA in 1 G).
In 2007, he fared okay for Erie (7-7, Sv, 4.58, 29 BB in 112 IP) and Toledo (1-1, 3.91 in 4 G), throwing a shutout in AAA. He allowed no hits in five innings that winter for the Gigantes del Cibao but walked six, giving up two runs. He began 2008 on a bad note for Erie (0-5, 6.50 in 8 G) and Toledo (0-3, 5.06 in 4 G) and was let go by the Tigers. He finished up with the independent Southern Maryland Blue Crabs (3-5, 5.45) and Newark Bears (0-1, 2.66), ending his career shortly after turning 25 years old.
Connolly was 55-43 with a save and a 3.67 ERA in 157 minor leagues (142 starts). He walked only 174 in 762 1/3 innings in the affiliated minors.