Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Mike Boulanger (Part 1)

Lone Star Dugout has an interview with Mike Boulanger, who recently finished his first season as the Rangers' minor leauge hitting coordinator. Boulanger was the manager of the Oklahoma RedHawks in 2006. In part one of this two-part feature, we speak to Boulanger about some of the top young hitters in the organization.

Jason Cole: After getting to work with the Rangers' AZL club this year, what were your impressions of Cristian Santana?

Mike Boulanger: He has got a lot of ability. Approach-wise, he needs to get a little bit better. But a lot of hitters have a little bit of a pull approach in them. He stays square and uses the whole field. He has the ability to hit for an average. Obviously anybody who has seen him play knows he also has power potential.

Cole: One guy that didn't get a lot of talk but put up decent numbers was first baseman Michael Ortiz. What did you see out of him in his first professional season?

Boulanger: He has got some pop in his bat. He's got some bat rhythm. He has some mechanical things that we're going to clean up a little bit. The way I look at it, scouts drafted him for a reason. I have a 150 at bat rule. If we drafted you and you were really successful in high school, we don't really want a bunch of guys trying to change you in your first week of professional ball. First of all, you might even wonder why we're trying to change you. That's what I told those young guys down there. I said I would let them play for a little while. If there's something really bad, we're going to address it. But I told them, ‘Let me see what you can do.' He has a little bit of length in his swing; he gets around the ball sometimes. But he does have the ability to put the bat on the ball. We're going to tweak that as we go along, but he's got a nice swing from the left side.

Cole: Miguel Velazquez was eventually suspended, but he had impressive numbers during his time with the AZL Rangers. What did you think of him?

Boulanger: He's a very exciting player. He's pretty much a five-tool guy. He's a guy that I project to play in the Major Leagues someday.

Cole: Can you talk about Miguel Alfonzo, another one of the outfielders from the AZL club?

Boulanger: I love him. He has the bat rhythm we talked about. He has the ability to center a baseball. He can hit a fastball. He does a really good job about laying off of sliders and balls out of the zone. For a young kid, they've got to be able to hit a fastball. How can you move on up the ladder when you can't hit a good fastball? He can. I'm very, very impressed with his ability to swing the bat. He needs to get a little bit better in the outfield. That's not my area of course, but he needs to improve his defensive play. Offensively, he's very impressive.

Cole: What type of hitter is Eric Fry?

Boulanger: He's more of a line drive, gap hitter.

Cole: What kind of power do you project from him down the road?

Boulanger: That's going to be hard to say. You're always projecting because he's such a young hitter. He has got strength, but he's going to have to learn how to hit and use his power correctly. A lot of young guys don't know how to pull the ball correctly. They get around it. I could see him having 15, maybe even 20 home runs per year.

Cole: Another one of those young guys is Renny Osuna. Can you talk about him as a hitter?

Boulanger: He's more of a contact hitter. He uses the whole field and has a good approach. He's able to go the other way, which allows him to be successful at an early age at the level he's at. It will allow him to be successful all the way through the system. That's something that needs to be acquired. Like I said, a lot of guys have that pull approach. He has that gap-to-gap, middle approach that allows you to back the ball up.

Vallejo hit .294 from his natural right side.
Cole: Jose Vallejo has been learning to switch-hit on the fly over the last couple of seasons. How do you feel he has developed from the left side of the plate?

Boulanger: On both sides, I will say that he has a better idea of what he's trying to do rather than just seeing it and hitting it. From the left side, I think he worked above the ball better than he has in the past. That produces a lot more line drives. With his speed, it's really important that he works above the ball because – while he does have some power – it's important that he hits line drives and hits the ball on the ground.

Cole: Both K.C. Herren and Chad Tracy had strong first halves in Clinton, but they really fell off in the second half. What do you feel led to those struggles?

Boulanger: For K.C., this is not really his first full season. But I think the dynamics of that team and, in K.C.'s case, I think it changed some. He was called upon to try to produce a few more runs than when they had some other guys in that lineup. Also give the pitchers some credit. I think they learn how to pitch you a little bit better. I think those guys both got a little bit tired. When you do, your legs go a little bit. In K.C.'s situation, I think he did a great job. I know his numbers fell off some, but I'll give the pitchers some credit on how they pitched him. If he's trying to drive in a few more runs, he probably tried to do a little bit too much. Sometimes you add some length to your swing to provide some power, and he shouldn't have. In Chad's case, I think he got tired. His legs definitely left him. I saw him six times this year and towards the end, he looked a little fatigued. That probably contributed a lot to his dropoff average-wise.

Cole: Herren had 30 doubles and 12 triples this year, but just six home runs. Do you feel that he'll develop more home run power down the line?

Boulanger: Yeah. Like a lot of guys, I think his power will come when he gets a little more experienced and he gets a little bit older. He'll learn how to hit a little bit better. When I had Adrian Gonzalez in Oklahoma City, that was kind of a knock on him. But as he played and learned a little bit more about himself and his swing, his power came on.


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