ROUND ROCK, Texas — Derek Fisher is responsible for the most exhilarating finish, in perhaps the most exciting game, in the history of the Houston Astros. As a pinch-runner in the bottom of the 10th inning, the young outfielder scored the winning run from second base on a walk-off single by Alex Bregman to give Houston a 13-12 victory in Game 5 of the 2017 World Series.
The Astros would eventually win their first and only world championship in a seven-game set over the Los Angeles Dodgers, with Fisher’s baserunning heroics in Game 5 leaving an impact on the results of the historic series. All in all, Fisher will forever be a legend in Astros lore.
But the 25-year-old is not finished writing his story; in fact, he has only started. With the Pacific Coast League’s Round Rock Express, the Triple-A affiliate of the Astros, Fisher is working his way back to the major leagues with fun and a refined, aggressive hitting approach.
“What makes baseball the hardest thing in the world is consistency. I just have to be as consistent as I can be with the new approach that I’ve put together,” Fisher said in an in-person interview conducted on Sunday. “It’s solely being more aggressive. I’ve done a lot of things in the offseason that I’ve wanted to do in the last few years, and the past 18 months, I saw that I went about it the wrong way.”With the Triple-A @RRExpress, @astros outfield prospect @defish21 is refining his hitting approach and having a blast in the process. @bytomdorsa speaks with slugger here.Click To Tweet
Fisher’s more aggressive approach has paid dividends for himself and the Express early into the 2019 season. The big lefty is slashing .278/.366/.542 with five home runs, 11 RBIs, four doubles, nine walks, and a .908 OPS in 18 games in Triple-A this season, propelling Round Rock to a 13-10 record in the PCL’s American Northern division.
Fisher contends that a red-hot spring training, where he slashed .300/.404/.500 in 40 plate appearances with Houston’s Grapefruit League club, carried some momentum into the early parts of the regular season. “I think going into spring that there were a lot of adjustments I had to make from last year into this year, thankfully the adjustments came pretty quick,” he said. “Being here now, I just have to take those adjustments from the batting cage to the field every day.”
It’s that hitting prowess that gives Fisher, a first-round pick back in the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft, a chance to succeed down the road. Though he was unable to crack the Astros initial 25-man roster at the conclusion of spring training, mostly due to the signing of veteran Michael Brantley and the emergence of versatile outfielder Tony Kemp, Fisher understands that through optimism and fun, he is giving himself a shot at a major-league promotion.
“It’s easy to have fun early in the season, but the challenging part is keeping that positivity and keeping that work ethic the whole year,” Fisher said. “This is a team that’s a lot of fun, and I’m someone that likes to bring a lot of fun to park every day. These days can be long, and you’re around the same people a lot of the time, so you have to find a way to keep it loose and keep it fun.”
The unfamiliarity of the situation provides its own challenges, though. This is the first year of a revamped affiliation agreement between the Express — whose home games are contested 20 miles north of Austin, Texas — and the Astros (the Express had been the primary farm team of the Texas Rangers since 2011). With that, many of the players are just now getting accustomed to the area and its surroundings.
“This is the first time we’ve been in Austin, the first time with this coaching staff, and a lot of us have played together in the past, so it’s just about getting comfortable with the surroundings,” Fisher said. “I think we’ll all ease into it, but it’s been different so far.”
Luckily for the Express and first-year manager Mickey Storey, Fisher is quite experienced, and lethal, at the Triple-A ranks. With the Fresno Grizzlies, the Astros Triple-A affiliate in 2017, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Fisher hit .318 with 21 home runs and 16 stolen bases in 84 games. To him, the key to enjoying that same success in 2019 is consistency and getting into a healthy routine.
“Consistency is the number-one thing. Every single day, being in the cage and having that routine to take every thing I’ve been doing to the game,” Fisher said. “I did that in spring training, but that was only 60 days. Baseball season is a lot longer than that, so I have to prove myself in the long run.”
Fisher is proving himself so far in the young Triple-A campaign and should be back up with the Astros in due time. Expect him to be a pinch-running and reliable bench-hitting option as Houston begins the summer stretch. It should be an easy transition from the minors to the big leagues for Fisher, who credits his winning mindset as a reason for future major-league success.
“The [Astros] organization has been so good since I’ve been here for five years, so I think the biggest thing is just having that winning mindset and winning attitude,” he said. “Simply from being in the organization for as long as I’ve been, I think it’s kind of ingrained in us.”