Thursday, January 8, 2015

An Interview with Astros RHP Justin Ferrell

I'll admit that I've been a bit intrigued with Astros RHP Justin Ferrell and when I saw him talking on twitter to friend of the blog Bill Morton a couple weeks back, I butted right in and asked him for an interview. Ferrell may not be the highest Astros draft pick of 2014 (36th round), but he certainly stand outs ... literally. Ferrell is listed as being 6'7" and 190 pounds. Wrap your head around that one for a minute. And the listed weight may even have been a little bit generous. But he assured me that he has put on 15 pounds so far over the offseason and is trying to put on a few more before he reports to Spring Training.

Justin Ferrell - July 2014
Photo Courtesy Bryan Green

I caught up with Justin by phone last week to learn a little bit more about him. As always, the first question I had for him was regarding his pitch repertoire. He throws a 2-seam and a 4-seam fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. The fastball sits in the low 90's and tops out at around 94, and he considers his curveball his best pitch. He's been working on both the slider and curve in the offseason, trying to coax a little tighter spin out of the pitches. His changeup, neglected in college, came in very handy in his first professional season. Having been used as a closer in college, he didn't have much need for the pitch, but since the Astros have him in the starting rotation, the changeup was something he relied on. Naturally, with his height, all of his pitches move on a downward plane.

Of the draft process, Ferrell said, "I talked to Jim Stevenson (an Astros area scout). He came and watched me pitch at Connor which was the JuCo (junior college) that I went to. About a month before the draft, they told me about where they thought I'd get picked, which I'd heard anywhere from 10 to 20 (10th to 20th rounds), and I was waiting around and waiting around and I didn't go. He called me in the 22nd round and asked if I still wanted to go. I said, 'Yeah, it's what I always wanted to do.' I didn't get picked until the 36th which is OK. It doesn't matter too much. After your top 10 rounds, you're all in the same boat. That's how I look at it anyway."

Once Ferrell got to the Gulf Coast League and got started with his professional career, he said, "My first couple of starts, my command was kind of shaky, just being in a new atmosphere and everything." As far as what we can expect to see from him, "If you ever see me pitch, you'll see that I'll go after hitters. I try not to pitch around them. I'll try to attack them from the very beginning."

What does he feel that he accomplished in his first season? Ferrell replied, "Just my maturity on the mound as far as facing more advanced hitters and learning how to pitch to them, keeping them off balance, keeping them guessing." And what is he working on? "There's a lot of stuff. I feel like you can learn stuff every time you go out on the mound, but as far as advancing myself, I'd say just getting the leadoff guy out. If I didn't get the first guy out, that always seemed like (those) were the runs that would hurt me."

When I asked Ferrell who on that GCL team had a pitch he'd like to steal, he told me, "My buddy Travis Ballew. He was in Corpus Christi and then he came down and pitched with us and he throws a sinker, a sink fastball. I'd like to learn that one here pretty soon or at least start working on it."

Of the GCL hitter he would least like to face, Ferrell said, "All our hitters were pretty good. I'd probably want to least face Dexture McCall. He was good all season and if you leave a fastball up to him, he has a powerful swing and he knows what to do with it."

Which fielders did he particularly like having behind him when he pitched? "Kristian Trompiz (middle infielder). He got moved up to Tri-City later on in the season, but I really liked Kristian. Him and Edwin Medina. He played centerfield for us for a little while and he got moved up to Greeneville. Those two, they really stuck out. They were always making good plays." When I asked if Medina had a good arm, Ferrell told me, "Yeah, but he didn't really need his arm ... because he'd run balls down everywhere."

If he couldn't play baseball, Ferrell said, "I'd definitely still watch baseball, but I'd go back to school. I was going to do dentistry before, but now I'm looking to go back and get my degree and start my own landscaping business."

When I asked Ferrell to tell me something about himself that most people don't know, he told me that most people who follow him on twitter might not know that he likes to hunt and fish since he never really talks about that. "I grew up deer hunting. I'm not just a city boy," Ferrell drawled in his heavy Oklahoma accent as if to emphasize that point.


Thank you for your time, Justin, and best of luck as your journey continues.

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