In a league where home runs are hard to come by, Hickory catcher Doug Hogan is having no problem blasting them with regularity.
Hogan, the Texas Rangers' 18th round pick in last year's MLB Draft, got off to a strong start power-wise with the Crawdads, but his batting average was less than stellar.
Through his first 35 games, Hogan had eight doubles, three triples, and seven homers—with a .218 batting average. The catcher then went on the disabled list with knee troubles [further explained below], and he missed just over one month of action.
When the 24-year-old returned, he instantly became one of the best hitters in the South Atlantic League. Since coming back into action, Hogan has batted .290 with seven home runs in 69 at-bats.
Though his 188 at-bats aren't enough to qualify as a league leader, his .553 slugging percentage for the season would rank fourth in the league. Two of the players he would be behind—Erik Morrison and Mike Bianucci—have also played for the Crawdads this season.
Hogan's .870 OPS would be good enough for sixth in the league.
The 6-foot-3 catcher is very strong and he has plenty of power. He has done an excellent job of handling a young, but exceptionally talented pitching staff.
Lone Star Dugout spoke with Hogan before a recent game in Hickory.
Jason Cole: You were recently sent to Arizona because of an injury, and as I understand you had minor surgery there. What exactly was the issue?
Doug Hogan: Yeah. I had a torn meniscus in my left knee. They just had to go in and do arthroscopic surgery. It wasn't major surgery. It took me four weeks until I was catching again. They had a good staff in Arizona, and they did a lot of work with me and were able to get me on the field in time.
Cole: How long had you been playing with the injury here in Hickory?
Hogan: When I first hurt it, I had to do a bunch of treatment and stuff. I had to sit out a couple of games, but I was able to play a few games and it never really got any better. We were on a road trip when I hurt it, then I just got an MRI when I got back from the road trip. They saw it was torn, so they decided to go ahead and get surgery right away.
Cole: How is the knee feeling right now?
Hogan: It feels fine now. The strength probably isn't quite 100 percent yet, but it's good enough to catch and good enough to run and everything.
Cole: I know that Arizona heat can be brutal this time of year. You've gotta like being back in the near-perfect weather out here.
Hogan: It's nice. It's not quite 110 or 112 like it was in Arizona, but we do have the humidity down here, so it kind of makes up for it.
Cole: You're from South Carolina, not too far from here. And you get to play some games back in your home state. Talk about being able to play close to home this summer.
Hogan: It's really nice. It's really good. I spent last summer in Spokane, Washington, which is the other side of the country, so it's nice to be really close to home. I can have my parents come up for games whenever they want and have friends come whenever they want. It's nice to be this close.
Cole: On a personal level, how do you feel about your season thus far?
Hogan: I feel like it's going okay. I could be swinging the bat a little better. There's always stuff you can work on, so I'm just trying to clean up everything game-by-game.
Cole: The Sally League is known as a pitcher-friendly circuit, but you're having no problem hitting for power here. Is there much of a difference in how the ballparks play from the Northwest League, which you were in last summer?
Hogan: I haven't really noticed too much of a difference honestly. I've kind of played down here my whole life. I don't notice a big difference. It's all just a matter of getting the good piece of the bat on the ball.
Cole: What have you been working on at the plate this season?
Hogan: Really working on trying to stay on the ball—not pull my shoulder out so much. We're working on everything up the middle and to the right side. Not to be so pull oriented. The coaches have worked a lot with me this year, and they've put in a lot of work. It's starting to show a little bit.
Cole: Being a catcher, I know there are a lot of intricacies of the game that you can always improve on. How do you feel you've developed as a defender this season?
Hogan: I've improved a lot. I've learned a ton of stuff with the Rangers since I graduated college. I'm learning stuff every game with coaches like Hector [Ortiz]. Hector was a catcher, so he has always got some input. [Brad] Holman is a great pitching coach.
They're always talking about pitch calling and different situations and sequences. I learn something almost every single game as far as that goes. Little stuff mechanically as far as blocking balls and footwork and stuff like that, I've picked up this last year. It has really been helpful.
Cole: Were you able to call your own games when you were at Clemson?
Hogan: Some of them. It was kind of split. The coach would call some of them, and they would turn it over to me sometimes. I like the freedom of calling our own games. I like the responsibility and the challenge. That's something I've really enjoyed about pro ball.
Cole: Did you get to call your own games in Spokane last season?
Hogan: Yes, I did.
Cole: How much different does that make the game, when you're making the decisions instead of a coach?
Hogan: You've got to be in every single pitch. As a catcher, you have to do that. It's good because a catcher sees stuff that nobody else on the field can see. They see how hitters are set up and how they react to certain pitches. They can see how a pitcher's stuff is working from behind the plate. It's really good having the catchers call the games. I think it helps out a lot. And it keeps the pace of the game up also.
Hogan providing pop for Crawdads
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