Originally posted on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 10/28/13
O’Rourke has played with Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and Eddie Rosario, arguably the three best prospects in Minnesota’s system.Earlier this offseason we caught up with Chris Beck, the 2nd round pick in 2012 by the Chicago White Sox.This time we got a chance to talk to Ryan O’Rourke, a left-handed pitcher drafted in the 13th round of the 2010 draft by the Minnesota Twins. O’Rourke has risen steadily through the Twins’ systems and will likely make his MLB debut in the next year or two. He projects as a successful reliever, working primarily against left-handed batters.Q. You posted career best rates in K/9 and WHIP this season as you moved through high-A ball and into double-A. What was the biggest reason for your continued success as the competition improved?I stuck to a game plan the whole year. Previously, if a pitch wasn’t working for me I would stop using it and go back and work on it for a while. This season I stuck with all of my pitches for the whole season. Another big part of my success was paying attention to analytics and studying guys’ tendencies. Since I knew I would be coming in against the lefties, I would study the other teams left-handed batters’ tendencies before the game. Hitters talk to each other all the time during games and give each other notes on what you are doing on the mound. I figured I might as well do the same.Q. In your February interview with Fangraphs you mentioned throwing a two-seamer, a four-seamer, and two different sliders, one to lefties and one to righties. Has that evolved at all this season or are you still relying on mostly the same pitch selection?I’m still throwing the same pitches but I’m facing more lefties in AA than I was in high-A. My slider is a major league out pitch and that’s what I’ve been using to attack lefties. This past season I faced Trenton in games 1, 2, and 4 of a four-game series and no one hit it. They knew what I was going to throw by game 4 and still couldn’t do anything about it. What I throw is also situational. I may throw a fastball if there is no one on base, but if I don’t want them to touch the ball I may throw all sliders.Q. How long of a break do you usually take after the season to recover? Who decides how long of a break you take? Is it you or the Twins? The Twins give me the plan for the offseason. I took two weeks totally off right after the season ended. I didn’t pick up a ball, I didn’t go to the gym, and I didn’t even watch baseball. After that I started working out at the gym. They don’t want me to start throwing again until January.Q. What is your offseason strength and conditioning program like and what is your main focus? Is there a particular throwing program that the Twins subscribe to? Are you working chiefly on gaining flexibility or are you trying to build up velocity?The Twins provide everyone with a plan, but as far as far as the throwing program they kind of let you do whatever works for you. I’m a big long toss guy. A lot of guys will top out around 120 feet, but I like to start around 90 feet and get all the way up to 270 feet. It’s a huge helper for me. As far as velocity goes, I’m where I am going to be. I am never going to be throwing 98 — my fastball tops out around 94. The strengthening and maintenance work that I do at the gym has prevented velocity dips later in the year. In past years my fastball would get down as low as 84. This year I was between 88 and 93 consistently.Q. Have you tried any of the weighted ball throwing programs that have worked so well for guys like Steve Delabar?I really haven’t tried those weighted ball programs with the heavier balls. I use the lighter weighted balls to warm up sometimes. I don’t believe in throwing those heavier balls as hard as you can. To me it seems like an injury risk, but everyone is different.Q. Do you feel like the Twins have a particular organizational philosophy towards the type of pitchers they like to draft? They have traditionally drafted some high-contact, low-strikeout pitchers.The biggest thing the Twins want to do is draft strike throwers. You don’t want to let anyone beat you that way. Not walking anyone is stressed from the General Manager all the way down to my pitching coach. We play in a big park where it gets pretty cold in the spring and fall, so the ball doesn’t travel as much. As a result our club philosophy has been strong pitching and defense to get to the playoffs.Q. The Twins have one of the best farm systems in all of baseball and arguably the top two positional prospects in all of baseball.  You got to play part of the year with both of them.  What was it like being around Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano and what impressed you most about each of them?Well I have played with Miguel Sano for the last two years so I can speak a little bit more about him.  Miguel’s approach has really matured this past season. Sano has monster power and has really improved his approach against breaking balls.  When I first started playing with him he was 18-19 years old, that season I saw him go through one of the hottest streaks I have ever seen followed by one of the coldest. When he was in his slump he would take too many pitches and it took a while for him to break out.  This season the same thing happened where he started off hot again and fell into a slump.  Rather than take pitches he kept swinging through the slump: it helped him pull himself out of it faster.  He didn’t get as frustrated this season and has improved pitch selection at the plate. Sano has monster power and has really improved his approach against breaking balls.Buxton is just a cut above.  Before seeing Buxton I thought we had some pretty good outfielders, not taking anything away from our guys, but he is in a different league.  Buxton gets to balls that you wouldn’t think anyone could get to.  Buxton runs so fast I have personally clocked him at between 3.8-4.2seconds from home to first.  He just makes the game look to easy.  He does it all he hits for power, average, he runs, he throws, and he plays amazing defense.  The closest comparison I have to him is Oscar Taveras but Buxton runs and throws better.  This season people swarmed him at all of our games for autographs.Q. Is Buxton the best player you have ever seen in person?That’s a tough one; if I had to give it to anyone it would be him.Q. It has been said Sano likes to talk a lot in the clubhouse and earned himself the nickname Bocaton.“It’s actually not because he talks a lot or anything like that it’s just because he has a huge mouth, have you seen the guy?  He is a great guy to be around.  Miguel clowns around a lot and is really lighthearted.”Q. What are your goals going into next season?My goal for next season is too at least start at the same level and hopefully AAA or maybe the big club.  A lot of scouts and people around baseball think my stuff translates to the big league level.  Wherever I start I want to do my best to help the team out and give myself the best chance to get called up.Q. As a left-hander who’s known for how tough you are against left-handed batters, which current Major League lefty would you love to face most?The guy who I would most like to face is Robinson Cano.  The thing that makes Cano so tough is that he stays on balls from lefties.  A lot of left handed power hitters like David Ortiz pull off the ball.  He also makes some of the quickest adjustments between pitches I have ever seen.Q. Who was the toughest batter you faced this past season?The guy who gave me the most problems was Allan Dykstra of the Binghamton Mets.  For a big guy (6”5, 215lbs) he has really quick hands and great bat speed.  I faced him in a key situation with men on base this season and got ahead in the count. He kept fighting off pitches and was able to bring in the runner.  We really battled.Q. What advice would you give high school pitchers who aspire to be in the MLB? I would say the biggest thing is putting in the time.  There is no substitute for the amount of hours in the weight room or throwing that I have spent.  You have to sacrifice a lot of days and nights.  I don’t even know how much time in my life I have spent throwing but I was out there under the lights many nights.Q. What do you know now that you wish you knew then?I wish I knew how to pitch.  In high school I was just a thrower.  I didn’t have all the talent and mechanics that I have now.  If I knew what I know now with my body back then no one would have been able to get a hit off me.Q. What is your prediction for the World Series and since you play for the Twins organization can you still be a Red Sox fan?Is that a real question?!  Of course I am still a Red Sox fan.  The Minnesota Twins organization was kind enough to draft me so they are number one, but the Red Sox are 1A.  I think it’s going to go the distance so I will say Red Sox in 7.
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