Thirteen months ago, Houston scouting director Mike Elias described Derek Fisher as “A big kid who can run and has a good swing with some power.” Last night, the Astros sent the 37th-overall pick of the 2014 draft to the Philadelphia Phillies as part of the deal for closer Ken Giles.
Fisher — a 22-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder out of the University of Virginia — possesses power and speed. Splitting this season between low-A Quad Cities and high-A Lancaster, he went deep 22 times and swiped 31 bags in 38 attempts. His slash line was a solid .275/.364/.483. Punch outs were an issue, as he fanned 132 times.
Fisher, who finished his first full professional season with the Glendale Desert Dogs, talked about his toolsy-yet-unpolished game near the conclusion of the Arizona Fall League season.
Fisher forging an identity on the field: “You want to do what the organization wants, because they know what’s best for you. Obviously, you want to be your own player and work to your strengths, but you also need to bring out the best you have in every category. You always want to swing at good pitches, and you always want to hit the ball hard.
“Nobody likes to strike out, but it’s going to happen. If you can produce… the bottom line is knowing your role on the team. Every team needs somebody who can steal a base. It’s about finding that happy medium of what type of player you are, and how you can best help your team win.”
On tinkering with his hitting approach: “I changed a little bit when I came out of college. Most recently, here in the Arizona Fall League, I’ve actually tried to go back toward I was doing in college, just a little bit. It’s a big cat-and-mouse game, and not only with the pitcher. It can be with yourself, too.
“What I’m going back to is more… for me, it’s not so much about whether I’m being selective. It’s more about being smarter at the plate. The Astros are fine with me (working on my approach) here. They’re a very open organization in that respect. They know what they want from every individual player, and if you can get to that position — if you can do what’s expected of you within that position— they’re not as hands on as people might think.”
On his promising power: “The big thing for me was using all fields. A lot of my home runs this year were to the opposite field, and I’m pleased with that. The wind blows out to right in Lancaster, but I actually didn’t hit many home runs at home Pulling a home run is one thing, and being able to stay on the baseball and hit it the other way is another. It’s something people say comes with maturity, so this was a great year for me in that respect.
“The Cal League has some good hitter’s parks, but you still have to be able to put a good swing on the ball and swing at good pitches. Personally, you know whether it should have been a home run or not. But in the end, I’m just big on hitting the ball hard. If it goes, it goes.”
On his running game: “That’s something I’ve been working on. I’ve always been a guy who likes to run, but I wasn’t really given that opportunity (at UVA). This year, I was. I had free rein to steal bases and could get a little reckless and try to steal everything. Sometimes that can work out, but at the same time, you have to realize there’s a time and place and place to go.
“Pitchers know if you’re a runner; catchers know if you’re a runner. It’s a big cat-and-mouse game, just like it is at the plate. I haven’t run as much in the Arizona Fall League, but I’ve definitely been paying attention. When I’m on the bench, I’m watching the pitcher. I’m focusing more on the mental side of stealing bases, rather than just recklessly running.
“I like talking to the guys who have been there. Tim Garland is somebody who has helped me a lot. He was our outfield and base running coordinator and he helped me both defensively and on the base paths. He stole a lot of bases in his minor league career. I’m all ears to anyone who help make me better.
“I also like watching guys who can steal base when they need to steal a base. Paul Goldschmidt is an example. He’s a first baseman, and he stole over 20 bases this year by catching people off guard. He knows when he can and can’t go. I’m sure he’s a guy who picks up on keys. If you’re a smart base runner, that obviously works in your favor.”
On his defensive profile: “In the Fall League, I’ve been in right field, which is a position I’ve never played before. But I love it. I’ve played left field in my time, and this past season I was probably in center field 80% of the time. This year has been great for that reason — I’m more versatile now. I’m most comfortable in center, and now I can say I’m comfortable in all three.
“To be perfectly honest, I probably don’t have the arm for right field. Those are usually the guys with the best arms, and I can’t say I’m Vladimir Guerrero out there. At the same time, throwing is also about accuracy, so I can handle right.”
On what he wants people to know: “Everybody likes to talk about the game, and about what’s good or bad about somebody’s game. I think everybody needs to understand it’s a kid’s game. You play every day and you need to have fun. In the end, you want to be able to look back and know you took advantage of the moment.”
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.