Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Mike Boulanger (Part 3)

Lone Star Dugout brings you part three of a three-part interview with Rangers minor league hitting coordinator Mike Boulanger. In this portion of the feature, we take a look at some of the system's newest hitting prospects.

Jason Cole: Mitch Moreland has always been known for his raw power. What kind of power do you think he has?

Mike Boulanger: I think his power is going to come late. We have seen aluminum bat power and then you've got wood bat power. He's got power in there; he's just going to have to work on staying inside the ball. He can get around the ball and then he can't keep the inside pitch fair and that's his power. That pitch up and away he'll hammer, but a ball down and away is a ground ball to second base. His bat path needs to be a little more true and he worked really, really hard on that. We showed him on video and he bought into it. He worked and worked with it. When he finished, he hit some balls a long way. He hit them on the street out there. I think he'll be fine.

Cole: I'm guessing that is one of the reasons he struggled a little bit in Spokane this year?

Boulanger: Right. It was obvious, but the kids in Spokane I tried not to do much with. We had just signed them. My philosophy is that somebody saw something they liked – one of our scouts, they drafted them – and just let them play.

Cole: Jonathan Greene is another guy that played in Spokane and at instructs. Can you tell me about him?

Boulanger: He's a tremendous athlete first of all. He has the ability to hit – that's probably his best tool. He has the ability to hit for power and in gaps. He got a little tired towards the end. I saw him towards the end of the year and he had never caught that much. He was pretty much worn out. But at instructs he didn't catch very much. He played third and DHed. He did an outstanding job.

Cole: Is Cristian Santana's shoulder injury affecting him at the plate at all?

Boulanger: No. He swung the bat really well.

Cole: How did you feel about his performance this year, especially after he got up to Spokane?

Boulanger: Well. The thing he did – one thing is playing in Rookie ball, but when he got there and got to instructs with these other guys – he made some changes you knew he was going to have to make. He made them very easily. I look for him to be a good hitter and, of course, he's got power. If he can do that with power, that'd be great.

Cole: Do you feel him developing into the same type of hitter Max Ramirez is down the line?

Boulanger: No, I think he'll have more power than Max.

Boulanger was pleased with Ortiz's progress.
Cole: I know Michael Ortiz didn't get to play much once he got to instructs, but what did you see out of him?

Boulanger: He's one of those guys – a high school kid that was around the ball. He had too much upper body involved in his swing and with wood bats you just can't do that. I spoke with him during rookie ball and he worked on it but he still didn't quite get it. Now he got with some of those older guys, got in the cage, and he picked up on what we're trying to get him to do. In about a week's time, he picked it up pretty quick. Towards the end he hit a big home run to win a game for us and hit another double off the wall. He was getting it. That way it's a shorter bat path, strike zone management, and all those things. But if you have an upper body swing, it gives you no chance. He made a lot of progress and he's got a chance to hit.

Cole: You got a good extended look on Julio Borbon at instructs. What were your impressions of him?

Boulanger: He's a tremendous athlete. He can bunt – he might be able to bunt .300. He's going to have to use a little bit more of the field and he's got a little upper body in his swing. He had that in college. It's a matter of staying square and not losing that front hip and front shoulder. But he's very smart, he picks up on things very, very quickly. I'd say he's very talented.

Cole: Borbon showed some power with the wood bat when he played with Team USA a couple of years ago. Did you see any power in there when you saw him?

Boulanger: Yeah, he's got power.

Cole: Do you feel he will have some home run power or just mostly gap power?

Boulanger: It depends on what you define as home run power. Depending on the level, eventually I think he's a 12, 13, 14 home run guy.

Cole: Johan Yan is a guy that has gotten a lot of attention in the past, but he really struggled this year. What was his problem at the plate?

Boulanger: He's got numerous issues. He's around the ball, doesn't stay square, and doesn't see the ball at release as far as early pitch recognition. He doesn't have a feel for being able to repeat his swing. But he's got tremendous ability in the sense that if you came in the cage or on one of those back fields with me and watched him in a controlled setting, he can get it going. But right now he's fighting taking it from the cage or practice field to the game. When game speed starts, his first move is to pull off the ball and of course that gets you around the ball. If they're throwing something spinning – like a slider or curveball going away – he's coming off the ball and doesn't have the ability to hit it back up the middle or the other way. He's fighting some issues; approach, plan, and mechanics. He's at the point now where his ability is tremendous, but that alone is not going to get you way up the ladder. You're going to have to make some adjustments, but he's trying. He's a great kid, a hard worker. The light is going to come on for him pretty soon.

Cole: Emmanuel Solis struggled as well this year. Did you feel he had sort of the same problem?

Boulanger: It's different from Yan. If you remember what I talked about with [Mauro] Gomez, Solis can get a little pull-happy. Sometimes we think as a young kid that if we pull the ball, that's power. That means your upper body gets involved. He's got tremendous power, Solis does. But we need him to be a good hitter that has power. He's working off the ball, so balls away are giving him a little bit of a problem right now. He's going to have to get a feel for it. He has been taught and he's had good instruction, but he's a young kid. He showed signs of it this year. He had a really good week for us at one time. It's a matter of being consistent and as he matures I've got to believe he'll get a little better feel for that.

Solis was signed in 2006.
Cole: He hit over .300 against left-handed pitchers this year and only .160 against righties. Was he just seeing the ball better against lefties?

Boulanger: I think so. He loses his front side a little bit against righties. If you watch his front foot, the toe opens up a little bit. When that toe opens up – just a little bit; I don't care if it's four or five inches – your hip moves too. Now you've lost your front hip with your toe being open. The pitch better be inner third for you to hammer it and then you may have trouble keeping it fair. In our terms, he's just not staying square long enough. Because of that, balls away or really good two-seamers are going to give him a tough time.

Cole: Miguel Velazquez had a really good pro debut with the AZL Rangers this year. Can you talk about him a little bit?

Boulanger: He has the ability to do all those things average for me. To run, throw, hit, hit for power. He's a guy that can be at least average across the board. He's a guy that can show up and really help your ballclub. But he didn't play – he needs experience. The one thing probably he needs more than anything else – and he needs instruction, no question – is that he needs to play. That's the one thing we can't give him. He's going to have to play and figure it out. We're looking forward to him getting back in the system and play a full season.

Cole: Last time I talked to you, you mentioned how impressed you were with Miguel Alfonzo. Were you still impressed with him after instructs?

Boulanger: I still am. Just as much. It's not my area, but I thought his outfield play was a little suspect over the summer. I watched him work with Wayne [Kirby] a lot and he's gotten much, much better with his outfield play. He's got a good arm. For a guy his size – if you watch him run – I'm not saying he's going to steal a bunch of bases, but he can run. He can go first to third and score from second. He runs well in the outfield and he did an outstanding job hitting for us.

Cole: Joaquin Arias missed pretty much his entire 2007 season. Has he been able to do anything to improve at the plate?

Boulanger: Well he's been hurt, so there's not a whole lot he can do. When I was down at instructs, he came and hit with me, but basically all he did was hit off a tee. We've just got to hope that shoulder gets right so he can come back 100 percent.

Cole: Do you have any idea how close his shoulder is to getting back to game ready?

Boulanger: I really don't. I know that we hoped he'd play in the Fall League and he wasn't able to. I was hoping he could participate with me in instructional league. We get along very well and I was hoping to get some work in, but he's still not ready to do it.

Cole: One of the 16-year-olds the Rangers recently signed was catcher Tomas Telis. Can you tell me a little bit about him?

Boulanger: He's a young kid that is just trying to figure it all out. He's got ability, but he's a young kid. Obviously he's behind, but he should be. He's 16. His right-handed stroke is better than his left-handed stroke, he's switch-hitting. It's going to take some work. I told him not to get frustrated because some of these guys have been playing for quite a few years. I just wanted him to try and pick up what he could. He did a good job. He got better at understanding why we do things and he's just a young kid that has a ways to go yet.

Cole: The last name I want to talk to you about Leonel De Los Santos. I know his arm is outstanding, but can you talk about him at the plate?

Boulanger: He was a guy that wasn't separating – he was landing at the same time. He worked hard – I had him work with Hector Ortiz and Hector did a real good job. He's at that point now where he's kind of figuring out what we're talking about in his swing as far as staying inside the ball and staying square so he can back it up. I'm real happy with that. The next step is going to be shrinking his strike zone. He's a little too much of a free-swinger. But first thing's first. Let's get him mechanically right and then we can ask him to see the ball a little better.

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