Kyle Ocampo isn't a typical 13th round pick. The Rangers made that clear when they convinced the native Californian to forego a commitment with Cal State Fullerton by giving him a well-above-slot $250,000 signing bonus.
Because Ocampo didn't sign until the 2007 MLB Draft's August 15 deadline, he did not appear in any regular season games. The right-hander made a few appearances in last fall's Instructional League, but it wasn't until 2008 that he would see official game action.
Ocampo's raw talent was obvious in watching his 2007 instructs and 2008 spring training performances, but he looked to be just that – raw. However, he showed quite a bit of polish with the rookie-level AZL Rangers this past season, going 3-1 with a 3.29 ERA in 52 innings. The 20-year-old walked 19 and struck out 56 while limiting opposing hitters to a .249 average.
Though Ocampo's numbers were impressive for a first-year pitcher, his stuff was even more promising. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound hurler flashed a 90-93 mph fastball with excellent life, helping him get a high number of broken bats and jam-shots. His best offspeed pitch was a mid-to-high-70s slider that has the potential to be a plus offering. Ocampo also threw a curveball and a changeup – both of which are works in progress, but showed potential.
Ocampo recently attended his second instructs in as many years. Lone Star Dugout chatted with the prospect about his experience.
Jason Cole: You ended up with strong numbers in the AZL, going 3-1 with a 3.29 ERA in 52 innings. How did you feel you were able to finish up out there?
Kyle Ocampo: I didn't have that good of an outing against the Giants, but I finished good the next game. Overall, I felt like I finished alright. I could have finished better, but I was pretty happy with it.
Cole: Just a couple of weeks after the season ended, you came back out here for instructs. How is it?
Ocampo: It's good. I like the way it is run this year. It is definitely really put together. It has been fun.
Cole: What have you really been focusing on at instructs?
Ocampo: With me, it's getting command and being able to throw my fastball at any time – just getting good command with my fastball.
Cole: From watching you in the AZL and at instructs, I've noticed that you're now throwing a curveball in addition to your slider. I haven't seen you throw it in the past – is it a new pitch for you?
Ocampo: It's something I'm starting to bring back. It is something I threw a lot in high school and I'm starting to get the feel for it again.
Cole: Bringing the curveball back – was that a decision made by the Rangers or yourself?
Ocampo: They knew I threw it when they drafted me. They never told me not to throw it, so it's something that I have just started bringing back. It has been looking good, so I've just kept on throwing it.
Cole: Do you throw both two- and four-seam fastballs?
Ocampo: I throw both. I throw four-seam and two-seam.
Cole: Do you use more of one kind?
Ocampo: I throw a lot more four-seams. I like to throw two-seams to lefties and get it on the outer half, breaking away from them.
Cole: Is there much of a difference in velocity between them?
Ocampo: My two-seam is like 88-89 and my four-seam is 90-92.
Cole: I've also noticed that you're bringing your hands over your head out of the windup now. You didn't do that before this season, correct?
Ocampo: No, that was something that Rick Adair worked on with me to get my delivery a little smoother.
Cole: When did you make that adjustment?
Ocampo: I started doing it in spring training. He started working with me in the middle of it and it's something I liked, so I just kept on doing it.
Cole: Is that really the only thing the Rangers have changed mechanically?
Ocampo: Yeah, that's really the biggest thing that they've changed. Obviously my head is a little jerky, but I have pretty good command, so they said it's not a problem as long as my command stays how it is.
Cole: You've told me that early in the season, your velocity was down, much like it is for most young pitchers in their first full season. Now that your velocity has returned, do you feel you were able to learn anything from it?
Ocampo: It was different. It definitely taught me how to pitch a little bit more and it taught me that the changeup is an effective pitch. I definitely learned a lot – keeping the ball down and hitting my spots. Now that my velocity has come back, I'm having a lot more success.
Cole: It seems that you're throwing quite a few changeups in starts these days. You didn't throw very many of them last year, did you?
Ocampo: No. The changeup is something that if I threw in high school, it was almost like it was a fastball to them and they would hit it every time I threw it. My changeup has definitely been really effective for me out here.
Cole: Since you hadn't used the changeup much before this season, are you surprised that it has become this effective so quickly?
Ocampo: Yeah, I am surprised because I had never really thrown it. I mean, I've always had a decent changeup in the bullpen, but I never really felt confident with it like right now.
Ocampo caps off impressive debut season
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