This week I interviewed Derek Holland, the 2nd best Rangers prospect according to Baseball America.
1. In 2007, your first year in the minors when you were in Spokane, were you disappointed when you had a 3.22 ERA, but still only went 4-5?
Well, honestly I can’t say I was disappointed. It was my first season with the Rangers and basically that season I was changing all kinds of mechanics and grips to pitch and arm slots for the slider. I was working on a good bit of things, such as making my delivery a little faster and more under control. Also I was developing the slider and, yes, I’m still not satisfied and working hard to continue to get better with all of my pitches. To me, a 3.22 ERA is pretty good and, as for record, well, I was also working on trying to throw less pitches, so I was throwing too much and didn’t get to last long, so I couldn’t stay in the game. But as for my first year in the minors, I felt I did a good job and credit it to my teammates as well because, trust me, everyone knows it takes 9 to win a game. And I needed all the guys to back me up defensively and offensively, and those guys definitely helped with that. So I credit them for a good year for a first season.
2. What is the key for your WHIP going down every time you go up a level?
Well, I’d have to say not paying attention to it is the best way, so you’re not so focused on your number. I feel if I start worrying about my WHIP or any other stats, it will get in my head and make me want to focus more on that than to worry about how I’m performing.
3. When you went through the draft-and-follow process, how sure were you that you would sign?
The draft-and-follow process was a pretty neat thing to experience. Well, I wasn’t too sure that I would sign but at the same time, the more I talked with my agent and my college coaches… they helped, as well as my parents, with my decision. The more I talked with the area scout, Jeff Wood, also helped with my decision, and I could tell this was definitely the right place for me to go. I do not regret my decision at all and am happy with this organization and all the players I have been able to play with.
4. In 2008, you were named to the Midwest League All-Star team (mid-season), were a Baseball America Minor League All-Star (end-of-season), and were a Baseball America Low Class-A All-Star (end-of-season). Which one of those meant the most and why?
(Laughs) Wow, this is tough. Well, I’d probably go ahead and say the Midwest League All-Star team. They all mean a lot to me but it was an honor to get to play with all those guys and, also, half of the Clinton team was there as well to share the great time. I also got to meet all the guys from the Midwest League and met a lot of new guys. It was an awesome experience and also, if it wasn’t for my Clinton teammates, I wouldn’t have been on this team, so they contributed to me being an All-Star and my success for the year. So I’d go ahead and say that means the most because I was with all of my teammates and showed that Clinton was a strong team in the Midwest League
5. Which one means more to you: being 10th in the minors in strikeouts (157), 3rd in the minors among lefties in strikeouts, 10th in ERA in all full-season minor leagues (2.27), 10th in opponentsʼ batting average, or 2nd in opponentsʼ batting average among lefties?
(Laughs) Well, another tough question. This is hard to answer. Well I guess I’d have to pick 10th in ERA as a good one to me because I want to be able to go out and pitch and show people that it’s going to be tough to get a hit off of me and my defense. My defense is a big contribution to this. If it wasn’t for them making plays and being very supportive of me, I wouldn’t have had that ERA. So I credit them as well.
6. Could you tell a difference with the mound last year between when you were throwing 98MPH and when you were throwing 95MPH, or did it seem the same to you?
Well, the way I look at it, even if the mound is bad, no matter what, you still have to pitch off of it and so does the opponent. Now as for a difference, there were slight differences from Clinton to Bakersfield. The mounds were a bit different in height and, just the way it was made, it was a lot softer and a little lower than Clinton. Clinton’s mound was a high raised up mound, so it made me feel like I was right on top of you. Bakersfield felt as if I was throwing a mile away. It was lower and seemed farther away. Now as for Frisco, it’s probably one of my favorite mounds to throw off of. The way I see it though, the mound is always the same distance no matter where you go and it felt different each time I moved up, but I got used to it also.
7. You’ve been named to a lot of ʽTop Prospectsʼ lists recently. What does that mean to you? Do you pay attention to those lists or do you try to ignore them?
Yes, I do pay attention to those but also, last time I checked, it is not a free ticket to the major leagues. I use this stuff as more of an inspiration and feel that, just because I am number one or two or whatever, I still have to prove I belong there and can stay there. So I don’t ignore them - I just read all that stuff and use it as inspiration.
8. What do you think has been your best professional game and why?
Wow a good and tough question. I’d probably go with my debut in Frisco. I felt it was probably my best game, though it’s tough because I also liked the game against Arkansas in the championship (game 4). It was to me one of my best games also after just facing them a couple of days before. I’m going to pick my debut (in Frisco) because I had command of all 3 pitches and stayed ahead of all the hitters. I had probably my best day of commanding the zone with all the pitches and also my offense was just on top of it, as well as the defense. I had great plays and great offensive support. It also meant a lot to me because my parents were there for my debut.
9. Who are your three favorite teammates since you joined the Rangers organization and why?
(Laughs) I don’t know if I can answer this because this could get bad. But since you asked I will answer and, to play it safe, next time you ask I'll be sure to find another three to mention so I don’t get yelled at. I’d go with only the guys who I have been able to play with, so it would be Tim Smith, Mitch Moreland, and Neftali Feliz. I get along with those guys pretty well and hopefully none of this will be used against me.
10. Can you please rate the ballparks in the Rangers organization that youʼve played in from 1 to 10 (10 being the best) and explain your ratings?
(Laughs) This could be bad but I’d have to rank them like this. Spokane is an 8 – it’s an awesome place to play, great atmosphere, and fans are really into the games. I really felt good being out there and was very happy with the stadium and the people there. Next comes Clinton and I would give Clinton a 6. Yeah, it may be high but it’s also an old school park and that’s what I liked about it. They may not have had that many fans but the ones who were there did get into the game. My favorite fan of all time from there is going to be "Big Guy", one of the best fans. He is right there on the 3rd base side and he will get on you if you’re disappointing him or getting too lazy and that’s a good thing to have right there. He’s like a 10th man. Now for Bakersfield. I’d give Bakersfield a 3. There were way less fans and it didn’t seem like they were getting enough attention out there. The environment was just like dead. A lot of the minor leaguers really aren’t so interested in going to that place, but at the same time it’s an OLD school park and I did like that. It just needed a little more maintenance but the dugouts were like a mile away from home plate. Now for Frisco. Wow, Frisco was amazing. I give it a 9. Great atmosphere and an awesome place to be. The fans were incredible and were always into the game. The fireworks after the game were amazing. It was like nothing I’ve ever played in. All the games were awesome to play there and I enjoyed every bit of it. I’d say it’s my favorite place I’ve played at so far.
11. What is the toughest thing about minor league life and why?
The toughest thing about minor league life was managing money and getting comfortable with places to stay. Also making sure to stay eating healthy and keeping your weight. One thing I really wanted to do was maintain my weight and get stronger. I plan to figure a new way and manage to get that all taken care of in the future.
12. Who are the three toughest hitters youʼve faced and why?
Well I could name a couple. I will go with Kyle Blanks from the San Antonio Missions. He was a tough out and had a lot of power. He could hit the ball a mile away and could turn on a fastball so I had to make sure to mix up speeds and just go right after him. Next is going to be Mark Trumbo from the Arkansas Travelers. He was a tough out, was a lefty and could flat out hit. Great hitter with good command and good power. He knew the zone and was also an aggressive hitter. Now the toughest guy I had to face, who seemed to hit really well, was Hank Conger, also from the Arkansas Travelers. He was just flat out a good hitter. He knew the zone as well and was a tough out. He battled and just put the ball in play. He was a great guy to face. It’s still very tough to decide who were the toughest hitters to face, but that’s the best list I could come up with.
13. What was your favorite team growing up?
My favorite team growing up was the Atlanta Braves. I idolized Chipper Jones and wanted to be just like him (well, hitting-wise). Pitcher was Greg Maddux because I knew being left handed I couldn’t play third base. So I became a switch hitter like Chipper and I worked and still am working on my control so I could be like Maddux. I used to play back yard baseball with my brother. He would always pretend to be the Cubs while I was the Braves. I would go out and imitate the whole line up from Mark Lemke to Greg Maddux all the way down.
14. What sports did you play growing up and which were you best at?
Well, I played all typical sports. I played football and basketball but I quit football and basketball. I quit right before my freshman year in high school. I was an average player. It’s funny, still today I throw the football and, you will like this, I go and kick some field goals every once in a while just for fun. I would say I was OK at basketball - tried to shoot (laughs) - but I mainly just stuck to baseball and played golf, which I’m now trying to get better at.
15. What is the worst injury you’ve had to deal with?
The worst injury I had to deal with was when I broke my collar bone. I was like probably around 10 and was playing football and got tackled and broke my left collar bone. I had to use my right arm for everything and it was really hard to do all that, from writing papers to sleeping. I’m all dominant with my left side and it just seemed very weird. It was hard to do everything not being able to use my left arm. I couldn’t raise up or anything, so it was different. And I also hated it when I had an itch inside the cast because I couldn’t reach it, even with a pencil (laughs).
16. What are your hobbies?
My hobbies now consist of golfing (well, learning how to golf that is) and hopefully soon I will get to go hunting. It’s something I haven’t done and would like to go out and try. So I’ve talked to a couple of the guys and hopefully they will take me out. I also guess you could say, yeah, I play a little Xbox as well when I have some time to just sit and relax. It’s what I do. And I read some books during baseball season.
I would like to thank Derek for doing this interview. He gave up a lot of his time for this and gave really good answers. It was very nice of him to do this and I appreciate it very much. Derek is a really nice guy and should be in Arlington before long.
Results of the Broadcaster of the Year poll:
Eric Nadel – 48% (57)
Tom Grieve – 26% (31)
Josh Lewin – 11% (14)
Victor Rojas – 7% (9)
Eleno Ornelas – 4% (5)
Jose Guzman – 0% (1)
Congratulations to Eric Nadel for winning the 2008 Texas Rangers Trades Broadcaster of the Year Award. I will be presenting him with the award next weekend at the Awards Banquet (no, it will not be on stage). Thanks to everyone who voted.
Come back next week for a summary of the Rangers Fan Fest.