Michael Fagan hasn’t followed the most traditional path to professional baseball. The San Diego native starred on the mound in high school, but he pitched in for a small private school (San Diego Jewish Academy) and had to work to be noticed by professional scouts and recruiters. Fagan did hear his name called in the 2010 draft in the 45th round by his hometown team, the San Diego Padres.
Fagan elected to go to college rather than sign with the Padres, heading to Princeton. He struggled during his first three seasons in the Ivy League, posting ERAs of 14.33, 7.57 and 7.99. He walked nearly 13 batters per nine innings over those three seasons. Fagan turned it around his senior year, however. He dropped his walk rate down to 2.79 while striking out nearly 12 batters per nine innings. Fagan also posted an ERA of 2.33. Suddenly, he was a draft prospect once again.
The southpaw didn’t have to wait nearly as long to hear his name in the draft this time around. The Oakland A’s called his name on Day 2 as their ninth-round pick. He began his pro career in the Arizona Rookie League, but Fagan spent most of his pro debut with the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters. Fagan missed a lot of bats during his stint with Vermont, striking out 25 in 19.1 innings. He allowed just 13 hits (.191 BAA). Fagan limited left-handers to a .120 average.
Fagan did struggle with his command, however, especially during the month of July, leading to his 4.66 ERA with the Lake Monsters. Overall, he walked 15 in 19.1 innings, and 12 of those walks came in 8.1 innings in July. Fagan improved his command considerably in August, walking just two in 7.1 innings. Not surprisingly, his ERA in July was 8.64 and his ERA in August was 1.23. Six of the 10 earned runs he allowed came in back-to-back outings on July 24th and 28th.
A’s Scouting Director Eric Kubota compared Fagan to former Oakland reliever Craig Breslow, another diminutive left-hander with a low-90s fastball and effective breaking ball.
Donald Moore spoke with Fagan about his professional debut season.
Donald Moore: How is everything going for you this year?
Michael Fagan: Fantastic. I'm enjoying every minute of it. The guys are great and the staff are great. It's been fun playing baseball everyday.
DM: What were your goals for this season?
MF: To learn as much as I can and kind of get adjusted to the bullpen. Those are the two main ones. No real numbers goals, but just getting adjusted to the talent level.
DM: What do you feel is your greatest strength as a ballplayer?
MF: I have a good slider. I think that is my best, plus pitch right now.
DM: What would you like to improve on?
MF: The change up, getting acclimated to the bullpen, especially upper levels, being able to come back , back-to-back days. And by doing that, keeping my pitch count low when I come into a game, and not going so deep in the counts and kind of getting those quick outs when they need it.
DM: How are you adjusting to professional baseball?
MF: It's been fun, it's been a blast. Coming from school, it's been fun just playing baseball and not having to worry about class. Not having to worry really about anything other than waking up and coming to the ballpark. It's fun; that’s the best way to describe it.
DM: What is the best thing about being a pro?
MF: I love playing, it's fun and it's great getting paid for what I do. Obviously, it's everyone's goal to make it to the majors as a little kid, so that's been awesome. Also the best part is just to worry about this (baseball), and nothing else outside of baseball.
DM: Any pregame routines?
MF: No, not really. I like playing cards and that's about it.
DM: What do you like to do during the off season?
MF: I'm going to play golf. I think I may take an internship, and hang out at the beach and surf a little bit.
DM: Favorite team growing up?
MF: San Diego Padres.
DM: If there is one person who taught you the most about baseball, who would that be?
MF: Probably my coach at Princeton, Scott Bradley. He helped me a lot along the way, especially training me to be the pitcher I am now.
DM: Craziest thing you have ever seen on a baseball diamond?
MF: I was part of a bench-clearing thing this year. It wasn't necessarily like a brawl, but words were being throw about. That was definitely the most crazy thing I have ever been a part of.
DM: Where do you see yourself in the future regarding your baseball career?
MF: Hopefully as far it can take me. Just as long as I can pitch, and not setting goals to be at any particular level, but to just keep pitching and hopefully at some point, make it to the big leagues.
DM: Thank you for your time and the best of luck to you and your future.
MF: Thank you very much.