Mitch Moreland broke out as one of the Texas Rangers' top hitting prospects last season, when he batted .331 with 57 extra-base hits between High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco.
The 24-year-old impressed Rangers brass with a solid performance in Spring Training, appearing in 19 games and going 8-for-29 with three doubles and five walks before being sent down to minor league camp.
After the strong spring and his solid performance in Frisco last season, Moreland opened the 2010 campaign at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Moreland didn't exactly get out to the hot start he was hoping for, as he batted just .221 with five walks and 16 strikeouts in the month of April.
Since then, however, the left-handed hitting Mississippi State product has improved in every month. He posted an .824 OPS in May, .880 in June, and he has been dominant in July.
In fact, since the start of May, Moreland has a .309/.396/.511 slash line with 34 walks against 37 strikeouts.
He is 17-for-48 with five doubles, a triple, and three home runs in 48 at-bats this month, including six walks and six strikeouts.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound prospect has a disciplined approach at the plate to go with a line-drive swing that produces above-average gap power with some home run pop as well.
While Moreland is progressing offensively with each month, he is also improving in the field.
Initially drafted as a first baseman, Moreland has gradually made the transition to full-time right fielder over the last few years. Though he isn't ever going to cover a ton of ground, Moreland is improving with his reads and jumps, and he is doing a better job of going back on fly balls––a major issue in past seasons.
But more than anything, the Mississippi native is learning to use his plus arm strength in the outfield. The southpaw can touch 93 mph on the mound, and he has learned to get better carry and accuracy on his throws from the corner spot.
Opposing teams are learning the hard way about Moreland's arm. The strong-armed right fielder leads the Pacific Coast League with 11 outfield assists this season.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with the hot-hitting prospect before a recent game against the Round Rock Express.
Jason Cole: I want to go back to your Spring Training, because you hit well in big league camp before going down to the minor league side. How did you feel you performed in camp this year?
Mitch Moreland: I learned a lot. I've been around some guys that really know the game and I just tried to pick their brain a little bit. I got to spend time around some of the big league coaches and guys that know a lot about this game and how it works both on and off the field. I just tried to learn as I got and pick up what I can. Hopefully it'll pay off.
Cole: Like you said, you got to be around the coaches, but you also spent your time around the players with lots of big league time. How much were they able to help you?
Moreland: It definitely helps. It also gets you a little more relaxed. You don't feel uptight. And especially the guys we have. It's a great group of guys up there, and even down here, there are a lot of guys that have been up there. It's just a good core group of guys, and you can't say enough about them. They make you feel so comfortable when you're around them. Having that comfort level just makes it easier for you.
Cole: You guys are having quite a bit of success in Oklahoma City this year, thanks in large part due to the mix of veteran and young talent in the lineup. Have you even played on a losing team yet?
Moreland: Maybe Spokane, when I first got here. In Frisco last year, we had a winning season, but we didn't make the playoffs. I started out with Bakersfield, and they got to the playoffs. We had a losing record in Spokane, but that was the only time so far.
Cole: From the start of the year until right now, what are your thoughts on your season with Oklahoma City?
Moreland: It started out slow. It wasn't the start that I wanted to get opened up with. I tried to battle and go out there and play every day. It has turned around, and it has been a lot of fun so far.
Cole: It seemed like you were really hot pretty much throughout Spring Training. Was it just kind of the normal progression of things that you happened to cool off to start the regular season?
Moreland: That, and I just wanted to do well. It'll catch up with you sometimes if you try to overanalyze stuff. I just had to tell myself to keep it simple––it's just a game, and you have to go out there and play every day.
Cole: You've been picking it up lately. What has been the key to getting back into a groove?
Moreland: I don't know. Just getting in that comfort level, I guess I would say. I'm just knowing that I'm going to go out there and play every day. It's not like I'm really battling right now. I just have to go out there and relax, get my at-bats, and play nine innings. Here lately, the way it has been going, it's more than nine innings. But it has been a lot of fun. I just have to stay relaxed and keep telling myself that it's a game.
Cole: You've played pretty much all your games in right field this year, haven't you?
Moreland: Pretty much, yeah. A couple in left.
Cole: How is it coming along? It seems like you're looking a little more comfortable out there.
Moreland: Definitely. The more I play there, the better I feel. It has been good. I still could work on my jumps and my reads. I take a few false steps every now and then, but other than that, I'm getting more comfortable.
Cole: How about the accuracy of your throwing? I know you're leading the team in outfield assists this year by a longshot.
Moreland: It has definitely picked up. I worked a lot in Spring Training with Gary Pettis and Bobby Jones. We worked on footwork and just trying to get rid of the ball properly and as quick as I can. That way, I don't have any extra––giving the runners more time. It has really come along well, and hopefully I can keep learning.
Moreland staying relaxed
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