Catching up with… Steve Buechele (Part Two)
In part two of my discussion with RoughRiders manager Steve Buechele, we talk about Jurickson Profar, Chris McGuiness and his own future in the game.
Alex Vispoli: This past season you had the distinct pleasure of sending four guys directly to the big leagues, by passing Triple-A. In your opinion, taking a look at those four guys (Justin Grimm, Wilmer Font, Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar), what do you think their ceilings are, how good can they get?
Steve Buechele: I don’t know, but I think they can all become great players. To tab every one of them as a great player, well what happens down the road you just never know. [Profar], he’s had so much talk about him and hype put on his shoulders, and the same with Mike Olt; I think they’re both going to be absolutely great Major Leaguers for a long time. I think Wilmer Font has a chance to very very good. And I think Justin Grimm, getting a taste and seeing what it’s like, I think he’ll be very good. And I could say that about a lot of other guys who were on our team this year. I think the fans and people around the Metroplex are going to find out that a pretty good number of kids who were on that team this year are going to be wearing a Rangers uniform. If not a Rangers uniform, they’ll be wearing a big league uniform pretty soon.
AV: Chris McGuiness was named the co-Player of the Week – along with Houston’s Jon Singleton – for the first week of action in the Arizona Fall League. I was pretty surprised by McGuiness’ season in that he was so productive. He started off slowly but hit for a .268 average with 23 home runs and it seemed like he raised his game to another level when Olt – who had been hitting in front of him for most of the season – went up to the big leagues. Here he is carrying the label of an “elite prospect” by going out to Arizona and by having the season that he had. He is known for being a pretty good defensive player as well. Is he someone who surprised you a little bit considering that he missed most of 2011 with injury and when he did play the results were not great?
SB: I don’t think he surprised me. I think what was key for him was that it was one of the first seasons where he went the full season injury-free. He’s always had little nicks and knacks and injuries that have knocked him out here and there. This year, for the most part, he was injury-free and played every day. And he was a kid who you saw him just develop and grow into a much more confident run producer and a much more confident hitter. I think maybe when Mike [Olt] got brought up, and I think even before that, you saw him develop and become a much more confident hitter as the season went on, certainly after the first half. Early in the year he had so many opportunities to knock in runs and I think became frustrated with it. It was just nice to see a kid at the Double-A level understand what it takes and what kind of hitter he needs to become to be a run producer. It was just great to see him do that. And he’s a great kid; to see that he was named “Player of the Week,” that’s not a surprise to me at all.
AV: With Profar, there’s so much hype around him and he had such a good season at 19 years old in Double-A, the youngest player in Double-A this year. You probably don’t know the answer to this and Jon Daniels might not know the answer either, but how do the Rangers work him in to get a more regular role than what he had in the last month of the regular season, considering the two positions that he can play are pretty well spoken for at the moment?
SB: I don’t know, that’s not my call. Do I think he’s a great utility player at the big league level if in fact they go with [Elvis] Andrus and [Ian] Kinsler [at shortstop and second base]? Yeah, no doubt he is. He would serve that role perfectly. Could he play every day in the big leagues? And my answer to that is yes too. He’s only 19 years old and you can’t overlook that. With Pro, what makes him so good is that he adjusts so quickly for a 19-year-old kid. The adjustments he makes and as smart as he is, it’s well beyond his years. I’ve said this a hundred times and you’ve heard it: very often you find kids that are afraid to fail. And he’s one of the rare players that you see who is not afraid to be great. I would be shocked if the Rangers don’t find some kind of role for him starting next season.
AV: I know you follow the Rangers very closely, I’m sure you were watching after our season ended. But from your vantage point, what happened to that team over the last two weeks of the season and that one playoff game?
SB: You know what, I don’t know. I’m not there, I watch it obviously just like everybody else. I don’t know. You hear their excuses and if you want to make excuses, to me it is kind of the result of what’s gone on the last two years. The grind, the long years, players becoming tired, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone has a definitive answer as to what happened. I think at the end of the season it looked like a very sluggish team to me, the energy level wasn’t there. What are the reasons for it? I’m not going to sit here and try to make any kind of excuse for them, but if I had to give you an opinion I think it’s just a result of what’s gone on the last couple of years and I think they just ran out of gas.
AV: Yeah, an extra month of baseball for two straight years and I think almost everyone played in a career-high number of games which probably helped cause that.
AV:You have been mentioned as a guy that folks think has what it takes to be a Major League manager. Is that what you want eventually?
SB: Sure, I mean going back four years ago when I was asked to come back in the organization and be a part of it, managing was never on my radar screen. Coaching or getting back in some form was in my mind. But being a manager never was. I’ve enjoyed it and I love it. What other people say is what they say, I don’t care. I’m happy with what I’m doing and hopefully someday I’ll get a chance to be on a big league staff again.
AV: Is that something that you take an active role in trying to make it happen or is your philosophy “if it’s going to happen, just wait for it to happen”?
SB: I don’t know how active a role I can take in it. I think I’m pretty loyal to the Rangers. I’ve been a part of this organization for a long long long time going back to 1985 and always being a part of the organization, doing something for them in some extent and now I’m back in uniform. There are certain loyalties that I have to the Rangers and the hope on my end is that at some point, some time I’ll be able to wear that Rangers uniform again.
My thanks to Steve Buechele for taking the time to talk with us. Look out for more interviews with members of the 2012 RoughRiders throughout the off-season.