Borbon enters season fully healthy

The Rangers selected Julio Borbon with the 35th overall pick in the 2007 MLB Draft. Borbon entered last season as one of the draft's top prospects, but a broken ankle caused him to miss nearly half of the collegiate season. Lone Star Dugout recently interviewed the 22-year-old prospect.

The top portion of this article originally appeared in Julio Borbon's prospect profile, which ran on March 24.

Throughout his collegiate career, Julio Borbon was always regarded as a talented player who had the potential to be selected high in the MLB Draft.

But his stock soared to new heights after his summer with Team USA in 2006. Playing against some of the world's top amateur competition – and with a wood bat – Borbon batted .364 with four triples, four home runs, and 15 stolen bases. Though he wasn't known for his ability to draw walks, Borbon worked 17 free passes – versus just 11 strikeouts – in 121 at-bats.

The centerfielder entered the 2007 season at the University of Tennessee as arguably the top position player prospect in that summer's draft. Unfortunately, Borbon's junior campaign never quite got off the ground, as he suffered a broken ankle in an intrasquad game just prior to the regular season.

Borbon made a relatively quick return, still appearing in 40 games with the Volunteers, but with much of Borbon's game coming from his game-changing speed, he was never able to play at full strength. The native of the Dominican Republic still batted .345, but he showed little power, little patience, and attempted only 13 steals all season.

In what was considered an extremely weak crop of college position players, Borbon was still regarded as the top collegiate outfielder when the draft rolled around. But his overall stock took a tumble, as he fell all the way to 35th overall, where the Rangers eagerly snatched him up.

The Rangers then began the negotiation process with Borbon and super-agent Scott Boras. With neither Borbon or Boras speaking to media during the contract negotiations, there was virtually no news until the outfielder signed on the August 15 deadline. The club ended up signing Borbon to a four-year big league contract worth $1.3 million. He also received an $800,000 signing bonus. Despite Borbon's fairly lucrative deal, his bonus was considered slot money for his draft position.

Shortly after signing, Borbon reported to short-season Spokane, where he was admittedly rusty. After not playing in a live game for nearly three months, Borbon went just 5-for-29 at the plate with the Indians before being sent to the club's minor league complex in Arizona. Borbon finished the season with the AZL Rangers and was 2-for-8 in the final two games of the season.

It wasn't until October's fall instructional league that the Rangers got their first extended look at the talented first-round pick. Borbon used the time to work on his plate discipline, among other things. It was there that he impressed the club with both his raw power and ability to lay down bunts.

Aside from his summer with Team USA, Borbon's numbers have never been dominant. But those who see him are able to witness his true potential. Borbon has the talent to become the Rangers' centerfielder and leadoff hitter for years to come, but only time will tell if that ceiling will ever be realized.

Borbon impressed the Rangers early in big league camp this year by getting four hits – including a home run – in nine at-bats. He was eventually optioned to High-A Bakersfield, where he will begin his first professional season.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with the prospect after a recent minor league spring training game.

Jason Cole: What did you do over the offseason in order to stay in shape?

Julio Borbon: I went back to the Dominican right after instructs. I went to the Dominican and worked out at the Rangers' complex in San Pedro for a whole month – almost five weeks. I just pretty much got after it there, working out on the field and off the field. I was just taking care of my body, eating, and getting my rest. That was something that I really tried to focus on. I wanted to make sure that, by the time I came back here for spring training, I was 100 percent.

Cole: We know quite a bit about instructs in the U.S., but we never hear much about Dominican instructs. How much different is it over there?

Borbon: There is definitely a huge difference. The first thing is the weather. Once you get down there, the weather there is just perfect. You're out there and you don't have to worry much about rain or anything like that. I think as far as facilities, the Rangers definitely have one of the nicest facilities out there and we're proud of that. We are able to make the most of what we have out there. We've got a great coaching staff out there, too. It was definitely something that helped me a lot coming into spring training here.

Cole: Is it mostly the same coaches from the U.S. teaching at Dominican instructs?

Borbon: Most of them were Latin coaches from Venezuela and the Dominican. [Jayce] Tingler was there. Some of the coaches here went down there. They kind of rotated and went for a week. They were in-and-out. We learned a lot. Most of those Dominican kids haven't had a chance to come to the States. They were able to get a taste of what the coaches are asking for; what they're looking forward to once they get to the States. It's pretty big, especially for those kids. It is definitely a learning experience for them.

Cole: Is there a Dominican spring training as well?

Borbon: Most of the guys have to report in early January and they show up to the complex there around January 21st, which is probably a month and a half before they have to report here for minor league camp. They get to work out for a long period of time and they're in good shape by the time they get out here. They get after it, I'll tell you that.

Cole: When you were in the Dominican, were you working on much of the same stuff you were focusing on here?

Borbon: Oh, definitely. Most of it was just my all-around game. Bunting and baserunning were some things I focused on. It was just fundamental things – just making sure you know the little things going in. Those are the things that really carry you once you get into pro ball.

Cole: How long have you been out here in Surprise?

Borbon: I got here on February 17th. I showed up about three or four days before we actually started out. I was able to work out here for a little bit.

Cole: You got some time in big league games and played pretty well, going 4-for-9 with a home run. How were you able to benefit from that experience?

Borbon: It was definitely a great experience. I was able to just see everything about the big leagues like how they go about their business and how they prepare for every game. Another thing I was able to learn was how they take care of their bodies – just really their all-around game. There were guys, especially outfielders, that were helping out and teaching me a lot of stuff.

Cole: What have you been working on at the plate since you got out here?

Borbon: It has been huge just to really focus on using the whole field. When you're in college, sometimes you can get away with just pulling balls because you've got an aluminum bat. You don't really have to worry about breaking it. But with wood, you have got to really focus on using the whole field and hitting the ball the other way. It is something I've been focusing on with the hitting coaches. We've been getting after it so that by the time the season comes around, I'm ready to roll.

Cole: Most people believe you will end up hitting between 12-15 home runs per year, but you haven't shown that kind of power yet. Are you currently doing anything to bring it along or do you think it will come in time?

Borbon: I think it'll come. I was able to hit some balls square-up in BP. They go out, but it's not something I'm looking for. In one of the big league games, I hit a grand slam. I was able to turn on a ball without even trying to hit it out. I know my power is there. But I'm not going to look to hit it out. My game is the speed game, hitting line drives and triples. I'm a gap guy – if the ball goes out of the park, it goes out of the park.

Cole: You missed a good bit of last year's college season due to an ankle injury. At what point did your ankle begin to feel 100 percent again?

Borbon: Late in the season my junior year in college. The last 10 to 15 games was when I knew my speed was back. I would go back to the dugout and talk to my coaches about my times down the line and they were just right back to where I wanted them to be. I knew it was there, it was just a matter of getting comfortable and not having to worry about taping your ankles before games. I'm now back to the point where I don't really worry about my ankle anymore.

Cole: You didn't run much in college last year, attempting only 13 steals. Was the ankle keeping you from attempting steals?

Borbon: My last year it was. It was something I wasn't really trying to do because the pro guys knew I was able to do that. It was just a matter of taking care of myself and making sure I could do something to help my team at the time. At Tennessee, we were trying to get into the NCAA Tournament. I was just trying to be able to get on base and get some runs in somehow. I remember coach telling me not to worry about the base stealing part because it was something that people already knew I was able to do.

Cole: Are you going to be starting your season in Bakersfield?

Borbon: As of right now that's where I'm at. I've been working with the Bakersfield club since I got sent back down to minor league camp. I'm just going to stay there until they tell me something different. I'm looking forward to going there.

Cole: Have the Rangers given you any idea of whether or not you will be able to advance past Bakersfield this season?

Borbon: I have no idea. They haven't even told me. The only thing I know about Bakersfield is that I've been working out with that team so far. I'm trying to take it one step at a time so I can focus on things that I need to focus on and handle things that I need to handle.

Cole: Have you set any personal goals for this season?

Borbon: As far as stats go, I haven't really thought about it. I've really just been working on this. A couple of days before the season starts, I'll probably start thinking about that, about what I need to do. I'm just working on my all-around game, trying to make the most out of that while I'm here. I'm trying to learn as much as I can.

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