After parts of three seasons with the Rangers organization, many had written off outfielder K.C. Herren – the Rangers second round pick in the 2004 draft – as a bust.
Though Herren made a solid debut with the Rookie level Arizona Rangers in 2004, he hit just .264 with four home runs at Short-Season Spokane the following year. The outfielder then began his season with Single-A Clinton in 2006 and hit just .221 before being sent back to Spokane.
Starting with Clinton again this season, Herren has put himself right back on the prospect map. The 21-year-old is currently hitting .327 with 21 doubles, a league-leading nine triples, and five home runs. The Washington native also recently participated in the Midwest League All-Star Game.
Lone Star Dugout spoke with the left-handed hitting outfielder before a recent Clinton LumberKings game.
Jason Cole: What are your thoughts on your season so far?
K.C. Herren: I'm real happy. I've made some adjustments since last year and I've gotten into a groove. Once you get going, it's that much easier. When the guys are performing around you it makes it that much easier to hit and field and do all the things you need to do.
Cole: Have you made any adjustments since last season?
Herren: I've fixed a lot of timing issues and vision type stuff. I wasn't seeing the ball very well. I was late with my timing, trying to play catch-up, and my swing would break down. I kept doing that over and over last year. Once my timing got better, once I got my foot down earlier, I was in a better hitting position and I saw the pitchers for a longer amount of time. It has just been easier since then.
Cole: You really struggled against left-handed pitchers last season, but you're hitting about .300 off them this year. Are you doing anything different?
Herren: For the most part, it's just been going up there with a plan. I know the way they want to pitch me. I see a lot of fastballs away and a lot of curveballs. I try to lay off the curveballs. A lot of these left-handed pitchers have great, great stuff. You have to give them credit for what they have and sometimes you have to lay off those curveballs and wait for a fastball and jump on it early. Really the timing and seeing the ball better has really helped.
Cole: You started in Clinton last season but eventually moved down to Spokane. Do you feel that move helped you?
Herren: It benefited me a ton. It got me different scenery, a different manager, and different players. The whole atmosphere in Spokane was a lot different. We hadn't been losing at the same pace that we were in Clinton. It was a little more upbeat. It was just a good change of scenery. It helped with my attitude. Not even the level of play, but just the fact that was easier to go out and have more fun.
Cole: What position are you most comfortable at?
Herren: Honestly I'm going to say centerfield. I've been a centerfielder forever. For me, it's the easiest to play. Some guys now cover more ground and there are better guys out there. Centerfield is the easiest for me, but I can play them all, so I'm not going to play favorites. I'm going to play all three if I can and hopefully I'm going to play all three for awhile.
Cole: What position do you think you'll ultimately end up at?
Herren: I'm most likely going to be a corner outfielder. In the big leagues, there are a lot of speed guys and there's a lot of real good centerfielders out there. They expect the corners guys to be able to come up with a little more pop. That's going to have to develop, but other than that, I'm probably going to be in the corner.
Cole: You've hit nine triples so far this year. Is there anything to that or are you just hitting the ball in the right places?
Herren: I lost a little weight since last year. A lot of my stand-up doubles since last year have turned into triples. I'm always looking one base more. Our manager really emphasizes being aggressive on the bases and making aggressive mistakes. At the same time, I've hit a lot of balls in the gap. I've been real fortunate. Guys have been playing me to pull or playing me opposite and I've hit it the opposite of where they're playing. There are a lot of deep allies in these parks in the Midwest League, so I've been taking advantage of that.
Cole: You recently played in the Midwest League All-Star Game. Can you talk about what that honor means to you?
Herren: It's huge. It was almost a relief. I was so excited. To go through what I did last year, to struggle and not really know why I was struggling, and to come in and almost be doing the exact same thing defensively and swing-wise, is really a testament to how hard I worked in the offseason. With the help of my teammates around me, I feel like I got myself into that All-Star game.
Cole: Have you set any goals for the rest of the season?
Herren: Personally, making the All-Star team was never a goal. Hitting .300 was never a goal. I just wanted to be better than last year. We'd all love to be in Double-A at the end of the year, but you have to sacrifice and have a good year here and hopefully win a championship. That's really the big goal. That's big for clubs, for the Rangers. Everybody is looking for this team to win a championship and we've got a good chance to do it.
Lone Star Dugout Q&A: K.C. Herren
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