Q&A with Rangers 1st Rd Pick Tanner Scheppers

Hard-throwing righty Tanner Scheppers has been drafted three times, and he hopes this year will be the last. The former Fresno State ace went to the Rangers with the 44th overall pick in last month's MLB Draft. Lone Star Dugout caught up with him for a Q&A after the draft.

NOTE: This interview was conducted and originally posted on July 3, 2009.

This is far from Tanner Scheppers' first rodeo.

When the California native was selected 44th overall by the Texas Rangers in last month's MLB Draft, it was the third time he's been drafted.

Coming out of high school, Scheppers was taken by the Orioles in the 29th round. Although he'd been better known as a shortstop during high school career, Baltimore chose him as a right-handed pitcher.

Scheppers was recruited to Fresno State University as a shortstop, but he moved to the pitching staff shortly after stepping on campus. Because he was still raw on the mound, the right-hander made just 12 appearances in his freshman season, posting a 9.00 ERA in 15.0 innings.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound hurler showed improved results as a sophomore, in 2007, and his fastball began reaching the mid-90s at times.

Then came Scheppers' junior campaign, where he went off. In 70.2 innings, Scheppers posted an 8-2 record with a 2.93 ERA, surrendering just 54 hits, walking 34, and striking out 109. Scheppers missed the last third of the season because of a shoulder issue, and he was injured during the Bulldogs' magical title run.

Scheppers' outstanding season got him drafted by the Pirates in the second round with the 48th overall selection. However, he didn't sign and opted against returning to Fresno State for his senior campaign.

The 22-year-old spent his year rehabbing and getting back into shape, and he even saw some action with the independent St. Paul Saints prior to the draft.

Lone Star Dugout spoke with Scheppers after he was drafted by the Rangers.

Jason Cole: I know you've been through this draft thing before, but congratulations again. What did it feel like to be drafted by the Rangers?

Tanner Scheppers: It is definitely a blessing, that's for sure. I've been anxious all year long—just kind of sitting and waiting and thinking about what the possibilities could be. I'm happy that I got drafted by a very good organization and hopefully I can get my career in affiliated ball kicked off pretty quickly.

Cole: You've now been drafted three times counting this year. Is there anything that made this one particularly special in your mind?

Scheppers: I have family in Texas, so I guess that was pretty special.

Cole: Where in Texas is your family?

Scheppers: Katy, Texas.

Cole: This is also the highest you've gone so far. Pretty much everyone was saying that you were a top-ten talent coming into the draft. Were you disappointed that you did fall to the supplemental first round?

Scheppers: Yeah. Obviously at first you kind of look back and you're like, ‘Wow. I've been told for the last two years now that I'm a top-ten talent and it hasn't happened.' Which is kind of understandable, coming off a shoulder injury. There are always concerns. But I took a couple of deep breaths, sat back, and I was getting drafted. You can't get angry about that. It still is the supplemental first round, so it's not bad at all.

Cole: Did you know anything about the Rangers' organization or the Major League team going into the draft?

Scheppers: Just basically the Nolan Ryan story and that it's a competitive atmosphere with great fans. Other than that, I don't know too much more about it.

Cole: Had you met with anyone in the Rangers' front office like Nolan Ryan or Jon Daniels prior to the draft? Did they come out to see you pitch?

Scheppers: No, I haven't. I hadn't really spoken directly with anyone. Derek Lee is a scout for the Rangers and he texted me on draft day congratulating me. But other than that, I hadn't really talked to any personnel.

Cole: I'm guessing since you hadn't really talked to the Rangers at all, you weren't expecting them to pick you?

Scheppers: They were definitely in the mix. When I slipped out of the first round, it was just a big question mark on who was going to pick me. It was kind of a surprise.

Cole: Give me a little bit of a scouting report of you as a pitcher. Can you give me a rundown of your stuff?

Scheppers: I've got a fastball that is normally around 94 to 98 mph. I've got a curveball, which is probably 78-82. It's more of a power 12-6. Also a slider, which is like 82-85 with sharp slider action. And then a changeup that sits around 85 mph.

Cole: Do you prefer one over the other in terms of the curveball and slider or are they pretty much equal in your eyes?

Scheppers: They're pretty much equal. It's just different situations—whatever pitch is being called and also it depends. If the stuff is not working one day, I'll just have to feel it out.

Cole: How about that changeup? When you were in college, was that a pitch you threw quite a bit or was it just kind of a fourth pitch?

Scheppers: No, it was definitely a fourth pitch. In college, I never really used it. When I went to St. Paul, I started to really use it a lot and I saw that it can be really effective if used correctly.

Cole: I know your season at Fresno State was cut short with an injury last year. What exactly was it?

Scheppers: It was basically just simple wear and tear in the right shoulder. I was shut down for six months, rehabbed it, and came back. Now I'm stronger than ever. It feels great.

Cole: How long did it take to where your shoulder was feeling strong and fully healthy again?

Scheppers: Basically after the four months of rehab that I did at SMI. I think that really helped.

Cole: What exactly is SMI?

Scheppers: SMI is the Sport Medical Institute. It's a rehab facility.

Cole: As you mentioned, you got to work out and play with the St. Paul Saints earlier this season. How long were you with that team?

Scheppers: I had six starts with them, and I was there for about a month and a half.

Cole: How'd you feel about the way you pitched there?

Scheppers: I think at some points I struggled a little bit. In my last start, I definitely came into my own a little bit with my control. I was definitely getting some rust off, because it had been awhile since I'd been in a competitive game like that. I forgot certain things and I was kind of just remembering little things about the game.

Cole: Did you have quite a few scouts there every time you took the mound?

Scheppers: Yeah. There were quite a few there.

Cole: What was the competition level like there compared to what you were accustomed to facing in the WAC with Fresno State?

Scheppers: I personally thought it was definitely a lot better. The hitters were a lot more disciplined. It's just better hitters. As a pitcher, if you miss your spot, they will hurt you. In college, you got away with a lot more. Definitely more developed and more patient hitters.

Cole: You were recruited as a shortstop. How long have you been pitching for?

Scheppers: This is my fourth year of pitching now.

Cole: Did you ever pitch in high school at all?

Scheppers: Yeah, I pitched like 30 innings my senior year.

Cole: How did that come about—being converted to the mound? Was there a time where you did both for a bit?

Scheppers: They shut me down pretty quickly at Fresno State and made me just a pitcher. They shortstop wasn't really a future for me and that he thought pitching was where my strength was. I went up to the mound and I could throw hard.

Cole: What was your reaction at the time? Was it something that you were all for?

Scheppers: At first, I was taken aback a little bit because shortstop was really the only think I ever knew. But I took a step back and really looked at where my talent was. I think I made the right decision.

Cole: Can you talk about the chances of you signing with the Rangers versus going back into the draft next year?

Scheppers: I really hope that this works out. I just want to go out and play baseball. I'd love to be with the Rangers. I hope it really works out.

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