Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tanner Scheppers Interview

This week I interviewed Tanner Scheppers, and I will post that along with some analysis on the Arthur Rhodes signing.

Tanner Scheppers Interview:

Tanner is one of the top pitching prospects in the Rangers’ system (Jamey Newberg ranks him as the number 2 prospect in the Rangers’ system). 2010 was his first full year with the Rangers, and he split the year between double-A Frisco and triple-A Oklahoma City. Expect to see Tanner in Arlington sometime in 2011. I would like to thank Tanner for doing this interview for me. He is a great guy, and I really appreciate him spending some of his time answering my questions.

Me: What are the three biggest differences between the independent league (St. Paul Saints) and the minor leagues?

Tanner: One, you get paid more in the minor leagues, two, the competition’s a little bit better, and, three, the atmosphere.

Me: Why did you decide not to sign with the Orioles in 2005 or with the Pirates in 2009 when they drafted you in the second round?

Tanner: Out of high school, I just don’t think I was ready. I really wanted to at least start my education through college. With the Pirates, it just really didn’t work out. They didn’t offer me anything and didn’t have any intentions to sign me, so it just forced me to go to independent ball.

Me: Right, so you went to the St. Paul Saints then. And when the Orioles didn’t draft you, you went to Fresno State, right?

Tanner: Yeah

Me: Can you please give three major differences you’ve experienced between starting and relieving and why? And which one do you enjoy more?

Tanner: I think for my future, I would really like to be a starter. One difference between starting and relieving is that, as a starter, you have a five day routine, you know when you’re going to throw, you prepare your body and get in a good workout routine. Relieving, you’re possibly pitching in any given situation on any day. Another thing is the mindset on attacking hitters. As a starter, you know you may have to go longer in a game, as opposed to relief, where you might just use your fastball and blow guys away. And then another thing would be… Hmm, you know, really I can only think of those two.

Me: Yeah, I like starting more, too.

Tanner: Do you?

Me: Because, when you’re relieving, you normally don’t get more than an inning and I don’t like that.

Tanner: Yeah, absolutely.

Me: What do you think are some of the reasons for the difference between your first half this year, where you had an ERA right around 1.00, and your second half, where your ERA was much higher?

Tanner: You know, I think it was just that it was my first full year and I had never really experienced how long the season actually was. I think I just ran out of gas mentally and physically. But now, being able to look towards the future, I feel like I can prepare myself a lot better, knowing what I have ahead of me throughout the year.

Me: Yeah, the schedule in the bigs is a lot longer than college.

Tanner: Yeah, exactly. I mean, I just never really experienced anything like that.

Me: That’s kind of how I was in my first year of select ball. We played like 40 more games than we did in rec ball. Did you notice any difference between Double-A and Triple-A hitters, and if so, what was it?

Tanner: I think the main difference is that you have more experienced players up there and they’re a lot more patient and they really capitalize on mistakes you make on the mound. They wait for what they want and they attack when they get it.

Me: When the prospect ratings come out with you near the top, do you pay any attention to them, or do you try just to ignore them?

Tanner: I just try to ignore them as best as possible and focus on what I need to do mentally and physically to get ready for the year.

Me: What were the three best parts of participating in the Futures Game this past season?

Tanner: You know, it was really cool because I was at the ballpark that I grew up going to, being from that area. And it was cool to be able to have a lot of my family and friends there, and being able to pitch in a big league stadium.

Me: Because you’re from California and it was in Anaheim, right?

Tanner: Right. I grew up like 30 minutes south of there.

Me: That’s pretty neat. In 2007, you were named to the first-team all WAC. What happens after you get named on that team? Is there a presentation or something to that extent, or do they just name the team and that’s it?

Tanner: They have an end-of-year banquet where they present players and awards for the year.

Me: Do they give you a trophy or anything?

Tanner: They give you a plaque.

Me: When you were recruited to Fresno State, they recruited you as a shortstop. Were you glad or disappointed when they switched you over to middle relief?

Tanner: You know, at first, I was a little disappointed, but it really grew on me and I just fell in love with the art of pitching.

Me: Right, because in your senior year in high school, I think you hit .460 or something and were team MVP, but you were also a good reliever. So I could see being disappointed but I can also see where Fresno State was coming from.

Tanner: Yeah, they had my best interests in their minds. So really, it ended up working out.

Me: It did. What are some of the differences between pitching in the Arizona Fall League and pitching in Spring Training?

Tanner: Just the atmosphere. You actually have people coming to the games and you have all the guys competing for a job (in spring training).

Me: What is the atmosphere in the Arizona Fall League like?

Tanner: It’s pretty relaxed. It’s for development and getting experience. It makes it really fun, when, really win or lose, you’re getting as much out of it because you’re getting better at the game of baseball.

Me: What do you think has been your best professional game and why?

Tanner: I think it would probably be my very first start of the year, against the Albuquerque Isotopes I think. I threw four innings of shutout baseball, and I think it was my best performance of the year.

Me: That’s a pretty solid first start.

Tanner: Yeah, it was nice.

Me: Who are your three favorite teammates since you joined the Rangers organization and why?

Tanner: Oh wow. To be honest, I think I would really rather not answer this question. I hope you understand.

Me: Yeah, that’s fair. Can you please rate each of the ballparks in the Rangers organization that you’ve played in from 1 to 10 (10 being the best) and explain your ratings?

Tanner: Frisco’s a 10. The atmosphere, the family atmosphere, the stadium, and the facility are unbelievable for double-A. And Oklahoma City was really nice. It was a little older park. I’d probably give it a 9. They had good crowds and the field was always done really beautifully. Both places were really fun to play.

Me: Yeah, my grandparents and I saw you get a save up in Oklahoma City this year. We stayed out in the hotel above left field, where we could see into the ballpark from our room. It was very neat.

Tanner: Yeah, that’s a cool little place.

Me: What is the toughest thing about minor league life and why?

Tanner: Probably just the travel and everyday grind. Playing every day and traveling different places, whether it’s on a bus or a plane. Probably just the everyday grind of that.

Me: Who are the three toughest hitters you’ve faced and why?

Tanner: I can’t even think of one really that sticks in my mind.

Me: You mentioned earlier that you’re from near Anaheim, so were the Angels your favorite team growing up?

Tanner: I actually grew up as a Dodgers fan. They were just a little further up the freeway.

Me: What sports did you play growing up?

Tanner: I played basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and baseball.

Me: Which one do you feel you were best at?

Tanner: Baseball.

Me: What is your best pitch and how was it developed?

Tanner: My fastball is my best pitch. It just kind of developed as I got bigger and stronger and got older. The velocity just came.

Me: When you were in high school, in your senior year, you were named to the Orange County All-Star team and you were also your team’s MVP. Which one meant more to you?

Tanner: Probably the Orange County All-Star.

Me: So, was there an actual All-Star game that you got to pitch in?

Tanner: Yeah, there was a game there.

Me: Thanks a lot for doing this. I really appreciate it.

Tanner: Hey, you’re welcome man.

Thanks again to Tanner for giving me so much of his time and for the great answers to my questions.

Arthur Rhodes:

I really like this move. Yes, he’s old, but have you seen his stats? He was an All-Star last year, with an ERA for the season of 2.29. The last three seasons, his ERAs have been tremendous, at 2.04, 2.53, and 2.29. I think that this is a terrific move, and the bullpen needs this, because with Feliz and Ogando possibly moving to the rotation (I think Feliz will be a starter and Ogando will stay in the ‘pen), the depth out there could be pretty thin. Plus, if you delete his stats from the 2000 playoffs, he has a 1.25 ERA in 14.1 innings of work during the playoffs. That’s pretty solid.

Come back next week for most likely another interview.

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