BY JEFF FALK
PHOTOS BY ALEX BIERENS DE HAAN, HOUSTON ASTROS
It’s a process, one whose steps become bigger the closer they get to the goal. Derek Fisher has taken his biggest step so far.
He is getting close, very close. But Fisher won’t rest until he arrives.
Fisher did not make the Houston Astros’ opening-day major league baseball roster. While there is some conjecture as to how much of a chance Fisher actually had sticking with the big club entering spring training, he came tantalizingly close – so much so that it piqued his appetite even further.
On Saturday, Fisher, a graduate of Cedar Crest High School, was officially assigned to the Houston organization’s top minor-league affiliate, Class AAA Fresno, California, where he ended the 2016 season. Fisher spent most of the month of March with the Astros at their spring training camp in West Palm Beach, Florida, and by all accounts impressed most on-lookers there.
Houston will open its 2017 campaign on Monday at home against Seattle.
Houston manager A.J. Hinch told MLB.com, “(Fisher and J.D. Davis) are the two guys who have probably taken the biggest leap forward when it comes to how comfortable they are at this level.”
“Fisher was one of the brightest stars of camp,” said MLB.com Astros reporter Brian McTaggart. “He’s a guy with power. He’s a guy with speed. The speed was on display here at spring training. He really pushes the issue.”
Hinch went on to say that the 23-year-old Fisher could aid the Astros later this season – perhaps before the major league’s annual call-ups in September – and that he possesses the ability to impact a game with his wheels and overall skill set. But hindering his chances of sticking in Houston this spring was the Astros’ off-season acquisitions of veteran outfielders Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick and Nori Aoki.
Fisher is rated as the Astros’ number-four minor-league prospect by MLBPipeline.com.
“He’s a promising prospect,” Hinch told MLB.com.
In 24 Grapefruit League games this spring, the 6-3, 205-pound Fisher collected 34 official at-bats, scored eight runs, banged out ten hits that included three doubles and a home run, and drove home eight runs. A left-handed hitter, he compiled a .294 batting average, a .419 on-base percentage and a .471 slugging percentage.
Fisher also played all three outfield positions for Houston, a versatility he has also displayed as a Houston farm hand.
“I think he’s put himself in position to be with the big league club, at some point this year,” said McTaggart. “Derek Fisher has certainly opened some eyes.”
And where Fisher was most impressive was on the base paths.
Fisher swiped ten bags in ten attempts, more than any other major leaguer in spring training. It was the most spring stolen bases by an Astro since Michael Bourn’s 13 in 2009.
“From last year to this year I’ve been working on it,” Fisher told The Houston Chronicle.
“Fisher’s been dynamic on the bases,” Hinch told The Chronicle. “He’s been very successful stealing bases, he’s picked up on a lot of cues, he’s taken some of the things we’ve worked on in the back fields into game action. He’s pretty electrifying when he gets on base. I like how he’s taken ownership of the things he needs to do to get better.”
Fisher’s confidence as a base runner and stealer seem to be on the rise. He’s less tense, playing looser and not second-guessing his reads, he told The Houston Chronicle.
While splitting time at Class AA Corpus Christi, Texas and the Class AAA Fresno Bears last season, Fisher stole 28 bases in 35 attempts. The year prior, his first as a professional, Fisher commandeered 31 steals in 38 opportunities.
Hinch portrayed Fisher as having ‘a very quick first step.’
In August of last season, Fisher was promoted from Corpus Christi to Fresno and performed well enough there to earn an invite to Houston’s spring training camp. In 371 Class AA at-bats, Fisher hit .254 with 16 home runs and 59 RBIs.
Fisher was selected by Houston with the 37th overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft. After signing with the Astros, Fisher received a $1.5 million bonus and began his pro days with the Tri-City ValleyCats in the Class-A Short Season, New York-Penn League.
As a senior at Cedar Crest, Fisher was named the 2011 Gatorade Player of the Year for Pennsylvania, after batting .484, with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs. He was ranked as the ninth-best scholastic baseball prospect by Baseball America, before being drafted by the Texas Rangers in the sixth round of that year’s MLB draft, but did not sign.
Instead, Fisher chose to accept a Division One athletic grant-in-aid to play baseball at the University of Virginia. Fisher was a pre-season All-American in 2014 and concluded the season as the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year.
Fisher led the Cavaliers to the finals of the College World Series in his junior season, his final year at Virginia.
|2014 [-]||2 teams||-||Minors||42||155||31||48||65||5||3||2||18||17||1||35||17||4||.310||.386||.419||.806||1.27|
|2015 [-]||2 teams||-||Minors||123||495||106||136||239||21||8||22||87||66||1||132||31||7||.275||.364||.483||.847||1.03|
|2016 [-]||2 teams||-||Minors||129||478||71||122||214||21||4||21||76||83||7||154||28||7||.255||.367||.448||.815||2.00|
|Minors Career [+]||6 teams||Minors||294||1128||208||306||518||47||15||45||181||166||9||321||76||18||.271||.368||.459||.828||1.38|