Oakland A's Prospect Q&A: Ryan Lipkin

STOCKTON - Stockton Ports catcher Ryan Lipkin feels right at home in Stockton. Lipkin, a native of Vacaville, had a distinguished three-year career at the University of San Francisco before being selected by the Oakland A's in the 2011 draft. We caught-up with the Ports' backstop for a Q&A just before the end of the first half of the season.

Ryan Lipkin was originally drafted by the Oakland A's in the 43rd round of the 2009 draft. However, he elected to return to USF for his senior season and improved his draft standing nearly 20 rounds when he was taken by the A's in the 24th round in 2010. Lipkin had a distinguished career with the Dons and he was a member of the 2008 Team USA collegiate squad that featured, among others, Stephen Strasburg, Mike Minor, Mike Leake and Christian Colon.

Assigned to short-season Vancouver after signing, Lipkin got off to a very slow start at the plate. However, the Vanden HS alum kicked it into another gear in August and September, when he hit .338/.423/.397 and .333/.368/.389, respectively. Lipkin continued to play well during the A's fall Instructional League, earning the praise of A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman.

Lipkin's 2011 season got off to a bit of a rocky start when he was sidelined during spring training with a bout of appendicitis. However, after recovering from the illness, he was sent back to Northern California to play for the High-A Stockton Ports, replacing injured catcher Max Stassi on the Ports' roster.

As he did in 2010, Lipkin got off to a slow start with Stockton at the plate. However, he is showing signs of a turnaround similar to the one he had in 2010. In June, Lipkin is batting .308, and he went 4-for-5 with a homerun and five RBIs in the final game before the California League's All-Star break.

We spoke to Lipkin just before the break about being drafted twice by the A's, the adjustments he has made since turning pro, his experience with Team USA in 2008 and more...

OaklandClubhouse: Your season got off to a little bit of a late start because of appendicitis during spring training. How are you feeling now? Are you 100 percent?

Ryan Lipkin: Oh, yeah. Totally healthy. I feel 100 percent now. Just happy to finally be out here.

OC: You finished up last year with Vancouver swinging the bat really well. Was it something that clicked for you using wood bats at the end?

RL: I think it was a little bit to do with the wood bats, but I think it was more to do with getting used to playing at this level. It's definitely a little bit of a step-up from college. I had to make some adjustments getting my foot down. Pitching was a little bit harder and the off-speed was a little bit better. I had to get my foot down and recognize the pitch. That was the adjustment that I had to make.

OC: How was Instructs for you last fall? Did you learn a lot from it?

RL: Instructs was great. I had a really good Instructs. I just kept my mind open and tried to take everything that they taught me in and know that they were there to help me. I tried to put in all of the work that I could. It was really good.

OC: When the draft came around last year and it was the A's who selected you for a second straight year, was it a surprise that it was Oakland that drafted you again or did you know that they were still interested in you?

RL: I did have a feeling that they were still pretty interested in me. When they drafted me the first time, they said they drafted me so I could get to know their system and so they could talk to me and watch me throughout the year. That was kind of their sign of ‘hey, we are interested in you.' So come the next year's draft I knew they were still interested. When they called my name, I was excited to be a part of the organization.

OC: Is it nice to be back near the Bay Area?

RL: It's great. I was slotted to start out probably in the Midwest League [with Burlington] but after my stomach and then what unfortunately happened to Max Stassi [season-ending shoulder surgery], I wound-up being lucky to land here for this year. It's nice to be close to home.

OC: Is there a big difference between the Cal League and the Northwest League? Have you noticed a big change in the level of play?

RL: Yeah, it's a big step-up. Scouting reports are better. The pitchers are able to locate more and if you don't make the adjustments it can really hurt you.

OC: Defensively, how are you feeling at this point?

RL: Defensively I'm fine. Nothing changes defensively I don't think. The work I did in Instructs, I made a big adjustment with Marcus [Jensen, A's AZL Manager] on my set-up. That's really helped. But I think there, I'm pretty solid. I think that's my strong point right now. I think hitting is where I need work. But I think catching, I could catch anywhere right now.

OC: Did your Team USA experience help you when you made the jump from the college ranks to the pros?

RL: Very much. At that time, I caught five of the best arms in the country. Four of our five starting pitchers have already pitched in the big leagues and so catching guys with big league quality stuff really helped me with catching guys here. Guys have the same quality stuff, just not quite as honed yet. Same stuff, same deal.

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