Because scouts weren't in love with Moreland's swing, many teams looked at the left-hander as a pitching prospect rather than a position player. Moreland pitched in 16 games with the Bulldogs in 2006, posting a 3.20 ERA and striking out 28 [while walking three] in 19.2 innings. He flashed a reported 86-90 mph fastball on the mound, although Moreland did hit 93 mph in an emergency relief appearance for Clinton on Sunday afternoon.
The Rangers liked Moreland enough as a hitter to draft him there and began working on his swing from the start. The Mississippi native had his struggles with short-season Spokane last summer, hitting .259 with two home runs in 108 at-bats.
This season has been much more kind to the first baseman/right fielder. Playing with the Single-A Clinton Lumber Kings, Moreland is batting .321 with 29 doubles, 10 home runs and 66 RBIs. He currently rates fourth in the Midwest League in batting average, second in slugging percentage, and first in runs batted in. Despite being a power hitter, Moreland has struck out just 40 times [with 36 walks] in 321 at-bats this year.
Moreland has been a consistent force in the Clinton lineup all season, but he has been especially strong in July. The 22-year-old is batting .319 with five doubles, one triple and five home runs in 19 games this month. He has walked nine times to go along with eight strikeouts.
Lone Star Dugout recently chatted with Moreland about his season.
Jason Cole: In general, how do you feel about your season in Clinton so far?
Mitch Moreland: It helps being with a great group of guys. We get along well. It just makes it easier to play – takes a little weight off your shoulders. You play a little looser and I think all in all, the little success I've had this year has come from great teammates and making it easier for everybody.
Cole: I was in the Cape two years ago when you won the Cape Cod League's home run derby. What was that experience line?
Moreland: It was a blast. The fans were great, atmosphere was good. The competition – we all had fun doing it. It has been a fun ride so far.
Cole: Were you able to meet anyone that is currently in the Rangers' system while you played in the Cape?
Moreland: I kind of met [Justin] Smoak through that. Hopefully we'll get him. Everybody knows how good of a player he is. He is a great guy off the field too. I got to hang out with him a little bit. I made some good ties up there, met some good ballplayers, and made some friends.
|Moreland could turn out to be a steal in the 17th round.|
Moreland: I just try to stay short to the ball and get a good pitch to hit. I like to work the count a little bit and try to get on base. That's the whole purpose of it. Like I said, it helps having guys behind you and in front of you that are tearing it up. That's going to help you get a pitch to hit. That is just kind of the way the season has went for us this year. We have been hitting the ball pretty well. We've had our ups-and-downs, but overall it has been pretty good. That helps out a lot.
Cole: You mentioned getting on base. You walked some early in the year, but since the start of June, you have been walking quite a bit. Have you made an adjustment that has led to that?
Moreland: I kind of took in an approach where I just go up and try to get my pitch early in the count. I sit on a specific pitch. If it's not there, then I try to lay off of it. It has kind of helped me not chase as much. I've tried to shorten up with two strikes – that has also helped. I probably wouldn't be doing that if it wasn't for our staff here and the guys we went through with in spring training. They helped us with that. It has gone well with that – they've helped out a lot. I attribute that to them, too.
Cole: You recently had two triples in a game and you had one on the season before that. Have you ever gotten two triples in the same game?
Moreland: Never. I'm not really known for my speed. I got lucky I guess – hit it in the right spots.
Cole: You've played at first base and in the outfield this season. Have you always been a first baseman before this year?
Moreland: In college, I played a little bit of outfield and first base. If you went back, I probably played just as much outfield as I did first in college. I feel pretty comfortable at either place.
Cole: Have the Rangers told you about where they want you to play in the long run?
Moreland: No, not really. I just try to go out and do my best. I'll let it work itself out.
Cole: When you're practicing in the field, is there one position that you're spending more time at right now?
Moreland: It just kind of depends on the day. Lately I've been playing more outfield, so I probably get more fly balls. But if I come to the field and see I'm in the lineup at first, that day I will practice at first. But if not, I probably practice in the outfield usually and just try and go from there.
Cole: Have the Rangers talked to you about a possible promotion to Bakersfield before the end of this season?
Moreland: They haven't. If it happens, then great. If it doesn't, then great. We have a good team here and they have a good team there. That is something our organization is doing real well this season – competing at all levels. Wherever I'm at, I'm happy as long as I am getting to run out there between the lines every day.
Cole: Have you set any personal goals for the remainder of the season?
Moreland: Just to try and stay consistent. I'd like to get a ring at the end of the year. I want to get into the playoffs and play some good baseball at the end of the season here and maybe get something to show off.