Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Corey Ragsdale (Part 2)

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Outfielder Nomar Mazara and first baseman Ronald Guzman are both impressive young prospects, but they're also years from reaching the major leagues. Lone Star Dugout sat down with Surprise Rangers manager Corey Ragsdale to discuss a pair of the Texas Rangers organization's highest-ceiling prospects.

Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Corey Ragsdale (Part 1)

Guzman and Mazara at-bats: 5/8/2012 (best viewed in full screen and HD).

Jason Cole: Since I've been out here, it seems like Nomar Mazara is beginning to make more consistent contact in games. It also looks like he's just seeing the ball better. Can you talk about his development so far?

Corey Ragsdale: The first thing is just the work that he has put into it with the hitting guys here. He has put in extra work every day. But yes, he has made some big strides to kind of figure out that leg kick that he's got––to get the timing down. They've really been working on that.

He has been putting really good swings on the ball for the last––really the last month. I think, now, he feels confident up there. He wasn't always getting a bunch of hits early in extended. He was barreling the balls up pretty regularly, and that helps his confidence. Now, he's going up there and thinking that he can do it every time. And it shows.

The results lately––he hit four balls hard yesterday. A couple were off a big leaguer. So that's exciting to see. He is really coming along. He is going to hit with some sock as he gets older. And right now, he has been hitting balls. He has been driving balls. He's kind of putting everything together right now, and it has been great.

Cole: As you mentioned, your club got to face Kip Wells yesterday. He's a 35-year-old guy with 11 years of big league experience––and he was throwing 92-94, touching 95 with sink. Did the hitters know who they were up against?

Ragsdale: I don't know. I didn't tell them until after it was over. They didn't look like they cared, though. They went up there, and in the first inning we put some good at-bats on him. He's just getting back into it, of course. But the third inning he threw, he kind of shut us down a little bit. I think he also realized, ‘Alright, I'm going to have to make some pitches here.'

We got him in a little bit of a hole early in both of the first two innings. They went up there––I'm not sure whether they knew or not. I didn't tell them until afterward. But they went out there like regular business and swung the bats pretty well.

Cole: You guys also faced Johnny Damon for a game down here right after he signed. I'm assuming all of the players recognized Damon when he was going against them.

Ragsdale: Yeah. It was cool for them. These guys are young. As you get older, you see a lot of guys come and go in that situation. Heck, some of them will be those guys later on in their careers. But for these guys––a lot of them out of high school and things like that––there's these guys that they've seen on TV for years.

And it's cool for them. You can kind of tell when they're going, ‘Hey, is that Johnny Damon?' It's good for them. They enjoyed it. He hit a home run off us in his first at-bat. Not that they were cheering for him, but they thought it was pretty cool. They enjoyed it.

Cole: Going back to Mazara––it seems like that big leg-kick he had when he signed is a little more quiet right now.

Ragsdale: They've just worked on it just to keep it under control. He was a little bit out of control with it. The guys here have been working with him to keep it under control––more discipline with that thing. They want him to be able to repeat it. Because you can do it in practice, and then when the game starts our emotions get going and things can get big a little big.

He has been able to slow it down a little bit, keep it under control, and keep it repeatable during the game. So now he's in a good position to hit. In the past, it would get a little big and he would fly a little bit. He would open up early and couldn't slow it down, really. For me, that's the biggest adjustment.

Cole: He worked on the kick during instructs and seemed to tone it down there, but it looked big again during spring training. It seems like he's toned it down again.

Ragsdale: Yeah. In instructs, they worked and they looked at some things. And then in the Dominican––me and (hitting coach) Justin Mashore went down for 10 days, and we saw him down there. It was big. They were working on it.

That's one of those deals with these young kids. It's a work in progress. A lot of these things are habits that they've had for so long that for a day, a couple days, or a week it might be okay. It might be good. And then, before you know it, they're right back.

It's a work in progress. It's a continual daily thing, just like a lot of things in baseball. He has to stay after it, and he knows that he has to stay after it. He's been doing a great job with it.

Cole: When I saw Mazara in right field during instructs, he was having a lot of trouble tracking balls. But it looks like he's improved considerably in that area since then––especially during games. Can you talk about his defensive development?

Ragsdale: It's a complete credit to him. He is much-improved defensively. Don't get me wrong––he's not out there running around like Ichiro in right field or anything. But he has come a long ways defensively in the outfield. I'm very proud of him for getting out there. He is one of the harder working guys in the outfield during BP. We had a talk. That's the time he gets better. That's the time he figures out when he can run full-speed and catch the ball and those things.

It's a credit to him. You look out there in BP, and he's out there running down balls. He may not catch every ball, but he's running full speed. The ball's not bouncing on him as much now. He is learning that he can go towards the line and make plays. He is so much more comfortable out there now. It's a credit to him, working during BP for the last two months. He has definitely come a long way in that area.

Cole: Ronald Guzman was a corner outfielder who had to learn first base on the fly right after signing. Can you talk about his development in the field?

Ragsdale: You saw him in instructs last year. He had always been an outfielder. We stuck him at first base last year. There have been some ups and downs, and Ronald has handled them very well. He comes every day. He's ready to work. He's a great kid who loves the game. And he just works.

The adjustments that he makes––he has gotten so much better between instructs until now. Don't get me wrong, there are things that we're still working on. The footwork––he's a real tall kid, so he battles playing a little bit too tall sometimes. And that's an ongoing process. But his hands––he's going to be able to do it. He puts the work in, and he's going to be just fine. He has come a long way.

Cole: You also don't see many guys at his height that can do the full splits to stretch at first base.

Ragsdale: He puts on a show. He's definitely flexible, and he takes pride in it. He likes to get out there, and when we take stretching, he takes it seriously. And that helps. It comes into play. Eventually––and he does now––but eventually he's going to be good. He's going to save those infielders lots of errors throughout his career.

Cole: How do you feel his performance at the plate has been so far?

Ragsdale: You can kind of see––there are a little bit of ups and downs. But when he really feels his hands, he's really, really good. He goes through spurts where he feels like any pitch thrown, he's going to hit hard somewhere. And he does a lot of times. We've had some comments from the other coaches saying, ‘Can we get this guy out of here?' after he's hit three lasers. But like any kid, there are ups and downs. We continually work at them. There are lows and highs, and we just try to keep him on that even keel and keep working. They've been doing a good job.

Cole: As young as Guzman is and with the long arms that he has, does he ever run into periods where he doesn't always stay short to the ball?

Ragsdale: Yes. There are times when he gets a little bit longer, and I think that's when he struggles a little bit. But when he is short to the ball, he is very good. He has got really good hands. He's got good hand-eye coordination. He's a big kid who is going to have some thump. He can hit the ball to all fields. He's going to be just fine.

Cole: Guzman came over to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic at 16 years of age and already had a very good grasp on the English language. How much does that help a guy like him?

Ragsdale: There's no doubt that it helps him, and it helps me. He helps the other kids with the English. He can interpret with those kids if they go places to order meals and things like that. We do a good job––most of the guys can speak English. A lot of them. Almost all of them can speak English.

But Ronald is very good with the English language, and of course that helps when we're explaining things to him. He's able to apply it right there. You don't have to get an interpreter and make sure he knows. He understands.

Cole: It also seems like, for a guy his age, he's got a pretty advanced eye for the strike zone.

Ragsdale: He does. He is not necessarily advanced, but he does have a good eye. Sometimes maybe too good. Like has been mentioned, maybe he doesn't see enough strikes. Sometimes I think maybe he gets a little antsy up there and goes out of his box a little bit.

But he can command the strike zone pretty well most of the time. I think, sometimes, he's just like a 16- or 17-year-old kid––sometimes he gets a little antsy, and they make up their mind, ‘Hey, I'm going to hit this pitch.' But, for the most part, he does and he's going to continue to get better at that.

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