Borbon exceeding expectations

In just his first year of professional baseball, Julio Borbon reached Double-A Frisco and batted .321 with 53 stolen bases between two levels. He saved the best for last, finishing the season on a 21-game hitting streak while batting .371 in August. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 22-year-old for a Q&A session.

Many players limp to the finish line in their first full season, but that certainly wasn't the case for Julio Borbon in 2008.

Borbon was promoted to Double-A Frisco after beginning the season with High-A Bakersfield, where he batted a solid .306 in 66 games.

The centerfielder held his own in his first full month with the RoughRiders, hitting .308 with two home runs in July. But Borbon saved the best for last.

In 29 August games, Borbon went 46-for-124 [.371] with eight doubles, one triple, and three home runs. He finished the season on a 21-game hitting streak that helped bring his final Double-A batting average up to .337.

While Borbon exceeded expectations at the plate in his first full season, he proved to be as good as advertised both on the basepaths and in the field. The speedy leadoff hitter swiped a total of 53 bases on the season. He also displayed excellent instincts in the field to go along with above-average range.

When Frisco's playoff run comes to an end, Borbon will return home for a well-deserved rest. But the 22-year-old won't get much time off – he will begin playing with the Arizona Fall League's Surprise Rafters in early October.

Because Borbon is already a member of the Rangers' 40-man roster, an impressive performance in the Fall League may be just what the outfielder needs to show that he could become a Major League contributor as early as 2009.

Lone Star Dugout was recently able to ask Borbon a few questions about his season.

Jason Cole: You began your season in the California League with the Bakersfield Blaze. Give me your thoughts on your experience there.

Julio Borbon: It was definitely a learning experience. Going up there and playing every day was something that you realize is no joke. You go out there every day and you play the game. It's not like back in college where you play three, maybe four times a week.

It was definitely something that helped me a lot. I knew as I was heading into it, but it's harder to just hear about it. Once you're into it and you're out there every day, going to the ballpark and playing, it's something to take notice. I was able to learn that and then move on. Once I heard I was moved up, this is just another step closer.

Cole: You were extremely impressive in May, batting .348 with eight walks and nine strikeouts during the month. What led to that great stretch?

Borbon: It's a good thing, especially when you're leading off – you get a lot of at-bats. Especially when you're going well, it even helps a lot more. I was seeing the ball well the whole month and just doing the little things and not really thinking too much at the plate.

Cole: A lot has been said about the hitter's parks in the California League. Even though you aren't really a power hitter, did the parks cause you to alter your approach at all?

Borbon: Not really. The first time I got there, I was surprised about the dimensions of it. When you're playing in a park where there is not much room to go over your head, it's kind of crazy and hard to believe. But I was able to make the adjustment and realize that the field played a lot bigger than what it looked like. I didn't really change anything as far as my approach. You can tell – I hit one home run there in the first half. It was nothing that I was trying to look up. I just went up there trying to put the ball in play and use my speed.

Cole: The centerfield wall at Bakersfield's Sam Lynn Park is just 354 feet from home plate. Is it different playing center in a park like that?

Borbon: Definitely. You're playing right behind shortstop pretty much. Balls over your head, you can get them. It's a lot different. It kind of helped me in a way with my defense and balls over my head. I was able to get a lot more comfortable as far as being up closer to second base and closer to the centerfield wall.

Cole: What is the key to improving on getting to balls over your head?

Borbon: Just getting reads and getting jumps. There are a lot of times that you see balls hit hard and you think you can't get to them. Before you know it, you're running it down and catching it. I think it has been something where I've realized that speed can definitely do a lot of things. I've been able to know that and use it to my advantage.

Cole: I have heard that you were playing right behind second base in Bakersfield so you could work on going back on fly balls. How close to second were you playing with the Blaze?

Borbon: It was really close. It was so close that I was having conversations with our shortstop about pitches that our pitchers were throwing. I was talking with our shortstop at the time, Marcus Lemon, and with Jose [Vallejo] when he was at second. I was having conversations about everything out there. So you know you're real close when you can actually have that talk with your infielders.

Cole: How often are you able to go back on balls here in Frisco and how well have you been able to do it?

Borbon: Just about every game at least once. I'm able to work on it even in BP here. I just get out there and shag. I've been getting some work done out here defensively.

Cole: What has been your primary focus at the plate this season?

Borbon: Using the whole field, pretty much, as far as going the other way. You see a lot of pitchers try to come in, too, so you really have to stay true to yourself and not try to cheat with anything. You've got to pretty much just react on anything you see. It has been something I'm working on – just not trying to guess what's coming and use the whole field.

Cole: How do you feel you have been able to do that this season?

Borbon: Definitely I've been able to learn a lot and do a lot of good things. Swinging the wood bat, you've got to stay true and just use the whole field.

Cole: Have you ever run this much in a season?

Borbon: Definitely not. The most I had in college was 25.

Cole: Are you comfortable with running as often as you are?

Borbon: Definitely. It's part of my game. I have to realize and understand that. I've definitely been having fun with it and I'm learning a lot too.

Cole: Did the Rangers tell you that they wanted you to run more often or is that something you realized on your own?

Borbon: It's just something I knew I was going to be able to do. This is what it comes down to. Pretty much all the running and stuff, I've got to be able to realize that and try to get as smart as I can when it comes to getting on the basepaths.

Cole: How do you feel about your performance since coming up to Frisco?

Borbon: It's definitely something to look at. You come over here after playing at Bakersfield in High-A and you are able to recognize and tell how big of a difference it is as far as the tempo of the game, the pitching, and all that. It's a big step.

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