A's Front Office Q&A: Keith Lieppman, P.2

While the Low-A Burlington Bees were in the Midwest League playoffs, Oakland A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman was in town for the best-of-three series between the Bees and former affiliate Kane County. Prior to Thursday night's Game Two, Bill Seals sat down with Lieppman for a question-and-answer session on the Bees' season. This is part two of that conversation.

Click here for part one.

Bill Seals: Right-hander Jose Macias overcame some early-season struggles to become the team's top starter down the stretch.

Keith Lieppman: A lot of it is confidence. Having been to both levels and going back to Vermont for a little while – I saw him dominate a couple games there and we realized he didn't belong there. He was higher than that level. But when he got back here, that same attitude continued on with him. He's had a couple of great outings here of late.

BS: Corner infielders Tony Thompson and A.J. Kirby-Jones certainly faced some adversity due to injuries. How did they respond?

KL: Tony was off to a great start and right now has 14 home runs, but he's had a couple of injuries along the way that cost him some time. What a big difference he has made defensively. Last year at this time he was getting a feel for how to play third base. He's improved his range and agility. And offensively, 14 home runs in this league is a solid year. He's right on track and will move to the next level along with a lot of these guys.

Kirby started the season with the wrist and missed the first month. Then he gets hit in the head and missed three weeks. This has been a year with a lot of frustration and medical problems. But the power is still there. He's probably the strongest kid with the strongest hands. He'll go to instructional league and to the next level next year.

BS: No one was injured more than outfielder Jose Crisotomo. What type of evaluation did you get of him when he was healthy?

KL: When you see the little glimpse of Crisotomo when he's hot, he can change the game with his speed. He makes things happen.

BS: A few 2011 draft picks made it to Burlington this season. What are your thoughts on them?

KL: Blake Treinen came here right out of Arizona. He's from South Dakota. All of a sudden you see him here and he's got a good arm. I think he was a great draft pick. I think everybody's excited about how he was able to come here and perform well.

Beau Taylor has handled his first opportunity at this level well. It's not easy coming out of college and jumping right into this level. A lot of people think college baseball is equivalent to Double-A and in most cases it's not. Learning to play every day, especially after a full college season, is not the easiest thing.

Beau has swung a good bat and thrown very well. He's really improved his range. The adjustment he's had to make is being required by us to call his own game. He's developing relationships with the pitchers. There's a lot of interaction with guys who have been here all season, whereas he's just coming out of college. He's being stretched in different dimensions. It isn't as easy as people think.

BS: Are you looking for Treinen and T.J. Walz to move back into starting roles in 2012?

KL: There are so many innings in the college season between February and June. Sometimes coaches pitch them on a Friday and then back on a Sunday. We're trying to get their workload down and let them understand it all. Next year the big arms, guys that were taken for that reason, will probably end up in a rotation either here or in Stockton.

BS: How many other '11 draftees were considered for call-ups?

KL: [B.A.] Vollmuth signed late and has really looked good. He's totally changed the playoff picture for the Vermont team. [Bobby] Crocker, [Dusty] Robinson and [Sean] Jamieson – there are some interesting young players that have entered the mix. This is one of our better drafts in the past few years.

BS: Still one of Burlington's youngest players, Nino Leyja has been in the organization for a while now. How did he progress with a full-season affiliate?

KL: For a young player, you forget that Leyja is still only 20 years old and has been in the system a couple years. Until the latter part of the season, he had a wrist issue, but he is a good player that's starting to come around. He signed at 17 with us and is still 20. It's like being a junior in college.

BS: Burlington struggled to find a steady mix of guys at the back end of the rotation. What are your thoughts?

KL: What you try to do with that is to create opportunity and mix and match. You hope you can push people. We had Tyler Vail here early with the idea of seeing how he can handle it. It was too much for him, so we backed him off and he's made some adjustments in Vermont. That has opened up an opportunity for somebody like Macias to get into the mix. We've had plenty of guys that have gotten opportunities.

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