After his first full season in professional baseball, Doug Hogan is playing in the Arizona Fall League and he's getting a chance to work with some of the game's most promising pitchers and catchers.
The former 18th-round pick out of Clemson University spent his 2009 regular season between Single-A Hickory and High-A Bakersfield, batting .241 with 20 doubles and 16 homers. His outstanding .503 slugging percentage helped lead to a solid .820 OPS between the two levels.
Hogan got off to a slow start in the Fall League, and he is batting just .200 [6-for-30] through his first nine games. However, in his last three contests, the 25-year-old is 4-for-9 with a pair of round-trippers.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound catcher is one of the stronger hitters in the Rangers' system, and he has plenty of raw power, which was displayed in his 16 home runs [and 34 extra-base hits] in just 68 games with Hickory this season.
As Hogan discusses in the following interview, he is working to cut down on his strikeouts [95 in 290 at-bats], which would also help improve his batting average.
Hogan is also focusing on refining his defensive game, which was the primary focus during the 2009 regular season. With the Rafters, the South Carolina native is splitting time behind the plate with Rangers catcher Taylor Teagarden, who spent the entire '09 campaign in the Major Leagues.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with Hogan after Thursday's game, in which he was 2-for-4 with a solo home run.
Jason Cole: What are your thoughts on playing in the Arizona Fall League in general thus far?
Doug Hogan: It has been great. It's definitely the highest talent level I have ever been around, and all the players and coaches have a really good time playing together.
Cole: It seemed like you struggled offensively early on, but you're 4-for-9 with two homers in your last three games. What has been the key to getting it going at the plate?
Hogan: When I first got here I had a few things going on in my swing that were causing me to struggle a lot. I have spent my time out here working with Brant Brown [our hitting coach] on fixing a few of those things. It's still a work in progress, but I feel much more comfortable at the plate than I was before.
Cole: What are some of those things you've been working on?
Hogan: Mainly just a few of the timing mechanisms in my swing that needed to be straightened out as well as keeping my body squared to the pitcher. Some of the things I was doing before were causing me to pull off the ball pretty badly.
Cole: You've been getting to work with Taylor Teagarden, a Rangers teammate who spent the entire 2009 season in the Majors. What has that been like? Are you picking anything up from him?
Hogan: It has been really good having him around. When he's catching, I pay pretty close attention and watch how he handles the game, how he calls pitches, when he goes and talks to the pitchers, and stuff like that.
Cole: A similar question: what has it been like working with a pitching staff that is loaded with big league-caliber talent?
Hogan: It's an extremely good opportunity to make myself better as a catcher. At the lower levels, most pitchers have either movement or velocity. Out here, all the guys have both. Even when I'm not playing in a game, I'm in the bullpen catching these guys. The more experience I get with pitchers of this caliber, the better it is going to make me as a catcher.
Cole: Obviously a lot of the talk lately has been about Tanner Scheppers. I know you've gotten to catch him a few times. What are your impressions on him?
Hogan: He is extremely talented. He's got a great arm and effortlessly runs it up to the upper-90s. He also has some very good secondary stuff to go along with his fastball. If he continues to throw like he is capable of throwing, he could move up through the system very quickly.
Cole: You just played your first full season in pro ball, and now you're catching in the Fall League. Is there any sort of fatigue factor setting in?
Hogan: Honestly I feel like I'm holding up pretty well. I knew I was going to play more games than I ever had in one year, so I worked hard in the weight room and tried to eat as well as I could throughout the year in order to keep my strength up for an entire season.
Cole: Does playing in the Fall League change how you'll prepare and condition for the 2010 season?
Hogan: Not necessarily. I've worked hard my entire life, and this year will be no different. Once the league is over, I will go home and take a little bit of time off and get some rest, but then I'll start training again for next Spring Training. If anything, it just doesn't allow me as much time as I had last offseason to take off.
Cole: Looking back on your 2009 season as a whole, with Hickory and Bakersfield, what were your thoughts?
Hogan: I would consider it a successful season. It was great to play for a former catcher when I was in Hickory [Hector Ortiz]. He, along with the rest of the coaching staff, helped me out a lot throughout the year both offensively and defensively. Then I got to spend some time in Bakersfield and be part of a playoff run out there, which was a lot of fun. It was a great group of guys to play with.
Cole: What parts of your game, both offensively and defensively, do you feel improved most in 2009?
Hogan: Defensively, I think my receiving and my pitch calling improved the most. I spent a lot of time with our pitching coach, Brad Holman, in Hickory, talking about what to throw in certain situations that we came across throughout the year. I still have to improve on my footwork when throwing to the bases, and that's what I am concentrating on most for the remainder of the fall. Offensively, I feel I improved the most on hitting to all fields and not being such a pull-dominant hitter. I still struck out a lot this year, which is something I will have to continue to work with.
Timing getting Hogan back on track
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