Strausborger finishing strong

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Outfielder Ryan Strausborger earned an assignment to High-A Myrtle Beach with a strong spring training performance, and he has responded by hitting well and stealing 31 bases for the Pelicans this summer. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the emerging 23-year-old prospect for a Q&A session.

From the time outfielder Ryan Strausborger joined the Texas Rangers' organization as a 16th-round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, he was a player worth watching due to his plus speed and defensive skills. It was his bat that would––and still will––determine how far he can go.

Prior to entering professional ball, Strausborger was a four-year starter at Indiana State University. He posted a cumulative .326 batting average during his career, including career-best .344/.411/.527 numbers with 30 extra-base hits and 41 steals in 46 tries last season.

Strong college results clearly don't always guarantee professional success, and that was initially the case for Strausborger. The outfielder posted a punchless .213/.292/.262 slash line during his first two months with short-season Spokane last summer. He finished on a solid note, though, and batted .330/.405/.505 during 26 games in August.

Due to his inconsistent results at Spokane––including a .255 overall average in 64 games––Strausborger entered his first spring training likely ticketed for the Single-A Hickory outfield. But the 23-year-old forced the issue in camp with a strong performance, utilizing his plus speed and using an all-fields approach to get on base. Strausborger even earned action in one major league spring training game, entering as a substitute for Josh Hamilton in center field against the Padres.

The prospect, who features a plus glove to go along with a strong arm and above-average speed, played his way into a High-A Myrtle Beach assignment this spring. He came out of the gates firing on all cylinders, batting .337 with some pop in April.

Strausborger was eventually named a Carolina League All-Star after a first-half performance in which he hit .305 with 30 extra-base hits and 21 stolen bases in 69 games––certainly no small feat in the pitcher-friendly circuit.

After scuffling in July (.185/.274/.293), the 6-foot-0, 180-pound prospect has begun to heat up once again. During 23 games this month, he is 26-for-80 (.325) with four doubles and two triples. He left the Pelicans' game on August 25 after being plunked on the hand with a pitch, though the injury isn't expected to be serious and he is currently listed as day-to-day.

On the surface, Strausborger's overall offensive numbers appear solid but unspectacular. However, in relation to his Carolina League peers, he is seventh in the circuit in batting average (.278), 10th in on-base percentage (.355), and eighth in slugging percentage (.429). He is also sixth in doubles (29), first in triples (nine), and fourth in stolen bases (31).

A handful of scouts have compared Strausborger to current Rangers' outfielder Craig Gentry, largely due to his high-energy game that features speed, defense, and arm strength. According to Baseball America, Carolina League managers and scouts recently named him the circuit's top defensive outfielder this season.

Because college senior signs are a bit older than most prospects entering professional ball, they are naturally forced to produce results earlier than most. And that's just what Strausborger has done this season, showing good defensive and speed tools with an intriguing––and improving––bat. Strausborger's ability to defend and run may carry him to the major leagues. His offensive production will ultimately decide how big his role can be.

Lone Star Dugout recently caught up with Strausborger, who is finishing his first full season and figures to work as an everyday outfielder at Double-A Frisco in 2012.

Prospect Video:

Ryan Strausborger takes two at-bats from Jason Cole on Vimeo.

Jason Cole: Just sum up your season here for me. How do you feel about it?

Ryan Strausborger: I definitely like the team I'm playing for. It's a bunch of good guys––a bunch of guys that play hard. It's a good coaching staff. It has been a very successful season. I came in here just with an open mind and got off to a really good start. I've been playing hard every day. Here we are now with a playoff berth, and we're still sitting in a good spot.

Cole: The Carolina League is pretty well known as a pitcher-friendly circuit, and you can see it in the across-the-board offensive numbers. For you, as a hitter, what's it like to hit in from ballpark to ballpark?

Strausborger: It's definitely tough when you look at the other leagues and you see how much better their stats are. You've just got to put that behind you and just keep playing every day. You can definitely tell that it's a pitchers' league because a lot of the ballparks aren't too favorable for the hitter. But you definitely just go up there, work hard every day, and keep trying to square balls up.

Cole: You were a little inconsistent in Spokane last summer but got hot in the second half. You've definitely been a little more consistent this season. What was the difference for you?

Strausborger: I think a lot of it––there are two reasons. Experience, first off. Having that year under my belt really helped. And coming down here, you've got a bunch of pitchers who have a better idea of the strike zone and throw a lot more strikes. It allows me, as an aggressive hitter, to attack early on in the count and be able to get good pitches early to hit. Compared to up there in Spokane, a lot of guys are just trying to throw it as hard as they can. You never know when you're going to get a good strike to hit.

Cole: How difficult was it to come off a full college season, take only a short rest, and then play basically a full season in Spokane with only a couple off days?

Strausborger: That wasn't too big of an adjustment to me. The biggest adjustment was just realizing everybody was a professional now, so they're all going to be good. And playing every day––that was a little bit different. It tired you out a little quicker. In college, you had three or four off days during the middle of the week. Other than that, it's just baseball again.

Cole: During spring training this year, you got to play in a major league game against the Padres, coming in for Josh Hamilton in center field. What was that experience like?

Strausborger: It was awesome. I didn't expect to go in there and have an experience like that. It definitely opened my mind to seeing what could be in the future. Being around a lot of the big leaguers and getting to meet the guys who are doing it in the big leagues every day––it made you feel pretty good and feel like somebody. That probably gave me a little bit of confidence coming into this season here.

Cole: While you were competing at spring training, did you have any idea whether you'd be headed to Hickory or Myrtle Beach?

Strausborger: I honestly didn't. It looked like I was going to Hickory the way they had the squads set up. Then towards the end––I'd say probably within the last three or four days of breaking camp––they moved me up to the Myrtle Beach squad. That's kind of when I had a hunch that I was coming here instead of there. That made me pretty happy, too.

Cole: You obviously had a strong performance in the spring and carried it over into the regular season. How do you feel your game has developed this season?

Strausborger: Definitely hitting. I've cut the strikeouts down a little bit, which is a good thing. I still can cut it down more. But I've definitely made some good strides offensively. I've driven the ball a lot more compared to being that infield-slapper type of guy. So I've been able to use my speed extra-base hit-wise instead of just infield singles and stolen bases, which I think is the biggest improvement. The defense and base running––to me, that's just working hard. That's just hustle. You don't have to worry about that with me every day.

Cole: Have you made any mechanical adjustments that led to you driving the ball more often?

Strausborger: I've made real slight adjustments. Nothing really with the swing––just kind of the hand positioning and my bat path. But the stance and the swing itself we haven't really done too much with. Just lately, we've been working on getting a little more on top of the ball. I've started doing a lot better job of that in the last couple weeks.

Cole: Do you feel like you're starting to get some momentum again?

Strausborger: Yeah, definitely. I feel like I'm getting that confidence back to where it was in the first half. I'm starting to put together a couple hits here and there. The multi-hit games that I was having in the first half are starting to come back a little bit. It feels good again.

Cole: Defensively, I guess you're naturally a centerfielder, but you have kind of played all three positions, haven't you?

Strausborger: Out of college, I was actually a middle infielder in my first two years there. And then I went to the outfield in my junior year of college. I kind of picked that up naturally. In Spokane last year, I played all three. Here I've mainly just been in center field. They cut me into that spot alone, which has been nice. That's where I feel most comfortable, and I feel like my speed––I can use that there more than in left and right.

Cole: Given your versatility, have the Rangers talked to you about getting some reps in the infield as sort of a super utility guy?

Strausborger: In spring training, I had one day where I took a few ground balls. I think they were kind of impressed with that. And then they mentioned utility-type player. Then I pulled my hamstring the next day, so that kind of went out the window for this year. But next spring training, maybe––we'll see what happens.

Cole: What are your thoughts if that does happen down the line?

Strausborger: I'll do whatever they need to do. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get in the lineup every day. Playing multiple positions is the way to do it. I'm fine wherever they want to put me.

Cole: As you look forward to the last few weeks of the season, what do you feel you can continue to improve at?

Strausborger: Everything. I definitely need to try and keep the consistency at the plate. I just need to keep playing hard. When the playoffs roll around, hopefully we can get a good team momentum into that and get ourselves a ring.

Cole: I'm assuming that you guys have been looking forward to the return of Mike Olt.

Strausborger: Oh yeah, that is a huge bat in the middle of the lineup. It makes it better for everyone else. Having that extra bat in the middle gives everybody else good pitches to hit. They can't pitch around him because then you have another bat behind him. Adding another bat––a productive bat, at that. Adding an RBI guy is big for us, because we have struggled to score runs sometimes.

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