Name: Kellin Deglan
DOB: May 3, 1992
Acquired: 2010 Amateur Draft, 1st round (22nd overall)
The interview in this story was conducted after a Hickory game at Asheville on August 7, 2011, in which Deglan went 4-for-6 with a double and two home runs.
When Kellin Deglan entered the Texas Rangers' organization as a first-round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, he realized that he'd need to make a few adjustments. While the left-handed hitter showed intriguing raw power as an amateur, his swing was long at times––making it difficult to catch up to (and pull) above-average velocity.
Deglan's swing and approach were his primary focuses during his first full season in 2011. The results were inconsistent with an overall disappointing stat line. In 89 games at Single-A Hickory, he posted a .227/.320/.347 line with 15 doubles and six home runs. He drew 34 walks and fanned 91 times.
At times during the season, Deglan was able to shorten his stroke and show his promise. He went 17-for-53 (.321) while showing some power and making consistent contact in June. After a rough July, he went on another hot streak in August.
Despite the numbers, hitting coach Jason Hart believes Deglan's swing improved over the course of the season.
"His numbers don't really show how much he has improved," said Hart, who will be the hitting coach at Double-A Frisco in 2012. "He's in there, and he has shortened up his swing a ton. He is learning how to hit the ball to all fields better and pull the ball properly. He is fun to work with––a great kid with a great attitude."
In addition to the swing mechanics, Deglan believes he was overly pull-happy when the season began. He went just 17-for-89 (.191) with 38 strikeouts in April and May.
"My swing has gotten a lot better," Deglan said last August. "Coming into spring training, I was thinking dead pull all the time. Even early in the season, I was trying to pull the ball.
"In this league, all the pitchers stay outside most of the time. I have been making adjustments in BP, thinking middle or the other way. And when they come inside, I want to just try and react and turn on it."
The 19-year-old Canadian also had to make a few mechanical adjustments during the year.
"I've tinkered with my stance a little bit this year," he said. "I have gone through a couple of changes. I'm still searching for that comfort level right now––changing the hands. Sometimes I go narrow and sometimes wide. But right now, I'm feeling comfortable going wide and just having my hands nice and relaxed."
Although questions as to whether Deglan will realize his offensive potential still remain, there is little doubt about his ability behind the plate. The backstop impressed the Rangers not only with his defensive mechanics last season, but also with his ability to receive, handle a pitching staff and call games at a young age.
"I feel good behind the plate," he said. "My thrown out percentage probably isn't as good as it should be, but it's a team effort. It's not just the catcher. It's not just the pitcher's times to the plate.
"I went through a stretch there in the middle where my accuracy was a little off, but it has been really good since. I feel good about my throwing right now."
Deglan also believes his mechanics behind the plate are improving as his body matures.
"(My mechanics) are more consistent," said the 6-foot-2, 188-pound prospect. "I've been filling out a little bit more since high school, and I feel like I'm getting more coordinated back there. My legs and my arm when I throw––it seems like it is getting in synch. I'm feeling good mechanically."
Before the offseason began, Deglan recognized that his frame was beginning to fill out, but he also says there's plenty of strength-building work to be done.
"Last offseason, I worked out pretty hard," he said. "Four times per week. I did some intense conditioning and some explosive stuff. I wish I did a little more heavy lifting. Because I'm one of the skinnier guys on my team. Next year, I'll try to incorporate it and get a little more heavy lifting and keep up with the explosive lifting."
As Hart mentioned, Deglan's mental maturity is one aspect that will surely help him in the developmental process. It's also something that kept him from letting his offensive struggles affect his game behind the plate.
"Being a catcher, you can't take your at-bats into the field," said Deglan. "You owe the pitcher some hard work back there. You don't want the pitcher to know how you have done hitting. You don't want him to know that you're 0-for-4. You just have to stay humble, stay even-keel, and work hard for him back there."
Also See: Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Jason Hart (August 10, 2011)
Tweeting Rangers Instructs (October 2, 2011)
Rangers Top Prospects, Top Tools (October 27, 2011)
Rangers All-Prospect Teams (November 8, 2011)
Batting and Power: The left-handed hitter remains raw at the plate, though he isn't short on talent. The pure tool-based projection gives Deglan solid-average future power due to his present strength––with more room in his frame to add bulk––and quick hands. While he has the potential to develop an average hit tool, he'll need to continue working on shortening his swing. In part due to his long arms, Deglan's path to the ball gets long at times, making it difficult to reach inside fastballs. He also must do a better job of incorporating the lower half of his body into his swing in order to maximize his game power.
Deglan was able to shorten his stroke and utilize his lower half better in spurts last season––a promising sign––but he was inconsistent with it and finished with an underwhelming stat line.
Base Running and Speed: With fringe-average speed, Deglan is a good athlete and decent runner for a catcher but doesn't project to be a stolen base threat. He attempted only two steals in 89 contests last season. He's an intelligent player on the field who will likely develop into a good base runner, but don't expect many steals.
Defense: Deglan projects to become a plus all-around defensive backstop. While he doesn't have quite the sexy tools that fellow Rangers catching prospect Jorge Alfaro has, he's much more refined. Deglan shows above-average arm strength from behind the plate with good accuracy and improving mechanics––as he mentioned in the above feature––as his body continues to mature. He's also an advanced receiver. The Rangers' player development staff has praised Deglan's ability to call games and handle a pitching staff for his age. As with any catcher, he'll learn and improve in those areas with more experience, but he should develop into an all-around solid defender.
Projection: Deglan's ultimate ceiling will be defined by how well he hits. He's currently regarded as a future plus catch-and-throw defender behind the plate, and that should be enough to move him up the ladder. The British Columbia native has the raw talent to become an every day major league catcher (if not a first-division starter), but he's also a long way off with the bat. He'll have to continue refining both his swing mechanics (including shortening his stroke and utilizing his lower half) and approach. Even if he's unable to do that, Deglan's work behind the plate could be good enough to make him a defensive-minded big league backup.
2012 Outlook: The 19-year-old will open the season at either Single-A Hickory or High-A Myrtle Beach, and it'd appear to be up in the air at this point. Though he's ready for the next level defensively, the Rangers may want him to have more consistent offensive success before promoting him. Crawdads teammate Tomas Telis will almost certainly progress to Myrtle Beach in 2012. Deglan could open the season by repeating at Hickory and splitting time behind the plate with fellow catching prospect Jorge Alfaro.
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