Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Kenny Holmberg (Part 2)

The Dominican Summer League Rangers currently have a 32-23 record, sitting one game behind the Cubs2 for first place in the Boca Chica South Division. Lone Star Dugout sat down with DSL Rangers manager Kenny Holmberg in part two of this two-part interview series.

Jason Cole: Continuing on shortstop Luis Marte––he is listed at 6-foot-1, 170-pounds. Is he a little more physically mature than most guys you get down there as 16 and 17 year olds?

Kenny Holmberg: Yeah. He is a physically fit kid. He's going to put on some weight––he's going to put on some size as he grows up. You're dealing with a junior in high school going into his senior year. That's when you start to put on the weight––as a freshman or sophomore in college it kind of blossoms.

I'm assuming that two or three years down the road, you're going to be looking at a pretty good-looking shortstop with range, arm strength, and gap-to-gap ability. He just has a very, very competitive nature. This kid is going to be exciting. I know we're all excited about the other guys we have sent along now, and he is just the next wave of good-looking shortstops in the minor league farm system for the Texas Rangers.

Cole: Fernando Vivili is another guy who signed last year. He was the only current Dominican Summer League player that went to Arizona for spring training this year. Tell me about what that experience in Arizona has done for him, as he went back to the Dominican Republic to play his season there.

Holmberg: I have a tough time answering that question because I don't even know how it would feel being a Latin kid and going to the States. I do believe that it has opened his eyes to the amount of competition that there is. And it has opened his eyes to––not only in the organization, but throughout minor league baseball as far as how big it is internationally and what he has got to do to compete.

He plays a grueling position. He has to grind it out every day, stay healthy, get into good shape, and he has got to be able to compete and swing the bat a little bit. I think these are all things that he noticed in Arizona. I can't speak for the kid, but he came back and he was going to work. He shed some pounds.

Our main goal is keeping this kid healthy. We really need to develop this guy behind the plate, and that bat will get him moving through the system. To answer that question, that would just be my opinion. I don't know necessarily what he took from the States. I never asked him about it. As long as he's here, we've been working.

Cole: The numbers haven't quite been there for him this season in the DSL. But in watching him take BP in Arizona, he seemed to be an advanced strength guy with some raw power. Is that something you've noticed as well?

Holmberg: He's a big kid. He has to really, really take that stuff serious in the weight room, with his diet, and everything he is doing to prepare himself to play 120-plus games as a catcher. That's what we've been really getting on with him. He recognizes it, and he understands it.

Obviously the numbers right now don't look as good, but not everybody comes down here at 17, 18, 19 and lights up the batting average column, the RBIs, the runs scored, and the extra-base hits. It's just a part of their process and their development.

This kid is going to swing the bat. They always say, ‘Once a hitter, always a hitter,' and he can hit. He kind of got off on a tough foot. He just started finding his stroke a little bit, to be honest with you. His set up, his load, and everything––his approach to the baseball is good right now. It has been a process.

We've been working on some things and making some adjustments at the plate. He has been open to everything. He's a great kid, a good student, and like I said, he's going to be a good hitter. I really think that defensively, when he tightens up the body, he could be able to help out. He is going to have arm strength, and he is going to have some mobility back there. He'll be a pretty good backstop.

Cole: I've heard some good things about two more of your infielders there, Smerling Lantigua and Alberto Triunfel. What are your impressions so far on those two?

Holmberg: Lantigua––I love this kid. He has a great body, a great swing, and he can compete. The strikeouts are high right now, but I think in the future, he's going to cut that down. And he's going to hit for some power. He finds the barrel and stays inside the baseball very well. He has hit one home run this year that he absolutely crushed to left field. That's something that he's going to start to do down the road.

Right now, he needs to get more consistent defensively. He needs to anticipate better. He needs to work his feet, he needs to work his hands, and he needs to trust his eyes. I think he's going to be a nice third baseman with some mobility. He could be a very, very special player down the road. He loves baseball, he's an intelligent kid, and he is passionate about his teammates. He is on his way.

Alberto Triunfel––excitement. I look at this kid, watch this kid play, and I'd be willing to pay to watch him play. He can really go get it. He has special, special hands, special eyes, and special feet. His decision making is improving. I think he's a kid––down the road––that could help some clubs win, and he is going to find himself on a major league roster one day because he can just flat-out play the game. He plays baseball hard and plays it the right way.

He is going to be an over-achiever at the plate. He needs to run better, which he has been working his tail off down here to do so. He is going to be one of those small-ball guys that moves runners, hits the gaps, puts the ball on the ground when he needs to, and puts bunts down to bunt for hits. He needs to be one of those pesky guys that everybody hates to play against but loves to have on their team. We're really happy to have him in a Rangers uniform.

Cole: Alberto's brother––Carlos Triunfel––is currently in Double-A with the Mariners. In watching Alberto, do you notice that he has gotten some influence from a guy who has played at the upper levels?

Holmberg: Yeah, I think at times it can definitely help. And at times it can take him astray. That's a tough situation, but it's a good situation. If his brother is having success, everybody wants you to have the same success. You hope that he learns from his brother's mistakes, and his brother teaches him the right way to do things and what he has seen during his process. In that sense, that could really, really help a kid. He is very proud of what his brother has accomplished in signing, playing, competing, and doing what he has done so far in his career. It's time for Alberto to focus on what he needs to do and get going himself, which I have no concern that he will get it going.

Cole: Mexico native Jose Gonzalez turned 17 in March, and it seems that he has been a nice surprise for you guys. He is listed as a switch-hitter but is only batting right-handed for now, correct?

Holmberg: Right.

Cole: What has he done for the team this summer? What kind of a player has he been?

Holmberg: To be honest, without Garia, he's our MVP. He's another kid where maybe the numbers don't show it as much, but he is having productive plate appearances. He is battling with two strikes, he puts the ball in play, and he can shoot the gaps. He stays inside the baseball probably better than anybody we've got. He has an approach and knows the game. He sees what's going on when he's on deck, and he takes that into his at-bats.

He is a kid that can play center field. This kid can flat-out run. He is a 4.2 down the line from the right side. He has a good arm with good accuracy. Just a good feel for the game, and he's very passionate. He's a kid that has come from some adversity, and those are the kids that––in my opinion––are going to be special down the road. They're battle proven, they're tested, and they're mentally and physically tough. He shows that every single day.

He is the first one in the weight room and he's the last one to leave. He is the first one out to the speed and conditioning in the morning. And he won't be cheated in any of his work. He's a competitor. I really appreciate the work that this kid has put in, and it is going to pay for him down the road.

Cole: I know you guys make an effort to keep the DSL players in tune with the higher minor league levels and the big league club. How often are the guys getting to watch the major league games out there?

Holmberg: We are watching the game right now, and every time that Texas is on, we've got it on TV. The TV situation in this complex is much, much better. We've got a nice setup. The boys are on it. Every time we get a chance, they see guys like Nelson, Elvis, and Neftali go out there and play. Some of these kids have relationships with those guys. Aneudy is here––Neftali's brother.

They feel it. They really pay attention to what is going on with the big league club. They pay attention to what is going on in Hickory, Spokane, and Arizona. They have relationships with kids throughout, and it's really special what this organization is doing throughout. It's a good time to be a Ranger.

Cole: Do you see it as a motivating factor when they see guys like David Perez, Victor Payano, Hanser Alberto and others skipping the Arizona League and going straight to Spokane?

Holmberg: That's our goal. We're not here to develop kids to go to Arizona and compete next year. We're here to develop kids to skip Arizona and make it to the Spokane club and help out and be exposed and prove there. That's our job as coaches, as staff, and as scouts down here. That's what we're trying to do.

The kids believe it, and they see that it is possible. Two years ago with Alexi and Omar getting to the big leagues––obviously a different route and a little bit older and more experienced. But a year later, Alexi is in the All-Star Game. They see that it is very possible. It is big for us in teaching, working, and keeping those dreams alive for these kids. I think that's where we get our competitive nature from down here when they do get over to the States. It's good for everybody. Competition is always good. I think it's the number one developer. It has been a good ride so far for these kids.

Cole: Can you talk a bit about what the new wave of July 2 signings are doing right now on a day-to-day basis?

Holmberg: Yeah, they're in the room next to me. I can sum it up in three words––baseball, baseball, baseball.

Cole: Are they playing in games yet?

Holmberg: Yeah, they are playing almost every day. Mike Daly and his staff are doing an absolutely fantastic job with these kids in terms of getting them on the field, teaching them the game, and teaching them the Ranger way.

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