Oakland A's Q&A: Keith Lieppman

PHOENIX - The Oakland A's recently completed their fall Instructional League camp. On the last day of camp, we caught-up with A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman to find out who stood out during the program. We also got an update on the status of outfielder Jermaine Mitchell.

OaklandClubhouse: Besides Cecil Tanner winning the Most Improved Pitcher award during Instructs, who won the other camp awards?

Keith Lieppman: Dayton Alexander was the other Most Improved and we had a Grinder award that went to Diomedes Lopez. We had four catchers go down within a three-day period, so he basically caught the entire Instructional League.

OC: A.J. Kirby-Jones had an impressive homerun today.

KL: He's made a number of nice adjustments. He is much more relaxed at the plate and he has a much better set-up. He's looked good down here.

OC: Do you think he can jump up to Stockton next season?

KL: Yeah. From what I've seen in this program, he should be able to handle it.

OC: Was there an MVP?

KL: This year we didn't award an MVP. This was really more about fundamentals. It was an interesting Instructional League. We really downplayed statistics and that type of accomplishment. It was more about the day-to-day fundamentals. We really focused on learning to hit the fastball. That was our number one goal. We took it from that to a set-up where guys were able to get into good positions to hit. We did a lot of tee work and cage work. It was really a good program for the fundamentals of hitting. We didn't put much emphasis on results.

OC: The guys that you brought over from the Dominican Academy – Vicmal De La Cruz, Renato Nunez and Shawn Duinkerk – how did they fare?

KL: They were all impressive. We are thrilled to have this youthful-looking group here. 17-year-old kids who are going to be good players. Duinkerk had never really faced left-handers before in his life. In Aruba, the options [for facing pitchers] were limited. Vicmal seemed to get better on a day-to-day basis. Nunez, he made a nice play today and things are starting to come to him.

The really good part is that they have a chance to come over to the United States in a relaxed environment like this. They can learn the language and the culture. It's been a nice period for them.

OC: Will they get the rest of the off-season off or will they head to the Dominican Instructs in a few weeks?

KL: I'm going to bring Duinkerk back for about three weeks for the Instructional League [in the Dominican] after he rests. He'll go home for about a month. I think Nunez plays in the parallel league [the minor league for the Venezuelan Winter League] and Vicmal, we'll bring him back at the end of camp for a few at-bats. But they won't be too involved in that camp because we start [this past] Monday. I will go down there on the 12th of November. We have a lot of staff going in and out of there.

OC: Will they come over here for the Arizona Rookie League season next year?

KL: Yes, definitely. All three of them.

OC: And Jose Torres too? It seemed like he was throwing well today.

KL: Torres was very good. Torres, in fact, got the award for the most advancement with the English language. It's such an important aspect of development that people don't really pay much attention to. Guys who are capable of making that adjustment, do much better. As soon as they are able to speak and feel comfortable with English, there they are.

OC: I know he's not at Instructs, but Jermaine Mitchell had knee surgery at start of the off-season. Is that going to keep him out for awhile?

KL: It was a major one. They say it's probably a six-month rehab. He played through it the whole time, which is amazing and it says a lot more about the great season he had. He had a torn meniscus. But then there was some type of defect in there that required a lot more surgery. They feel that he will have a complete recovery, but it will just take a little bit longer.

OC: So his season might start in May?

KL: It could. If he has a miraculous recovery, he may make it [by Opening Day]. It could go as late as May.

OC: Sean and Ryan Doolittle were throwing on the same day throughout camp? And they looked good?

KL: They've had good velocity. Sean looks good. He's going to have to learn his secondary pitches and things like how to throw over to first. He pitched in college but it's still a work-in-progress.

OC: Anyone else stand out to you?

KL: We had Rashun Dixon here the whole time and Dusty Coleman was here a lot. Coleman isn't part of the camp, technically [Coleman is on the taxi squad for the Arizona Fall League's Phoenix team], but he comes over here usually on a daily basis. We really tried to prepare both of them for Double-A and we were really happy with what they were able to do in this program. Dixon has been here a few times, but he made a number of advancements with his approach at the plate. Pitch selection and everything really. He had a good idea of what he was doing up there.

OC: Are you feeling good about how the system is shaping up for next year?

KL: Yeah. I think getting Ian Krol back will be good. He had a good camp here and should be up and going at a normal pace at the start of spring training. We had a number of assorted injuries that really, well they didn't set us back, but it would be nice to get everyone back. The [Pedro] Figueroas and [Julio] Ramoses and [Matt] Thomsons.

OC: How is Thomson doing?

KL: We anticipate he will be back in the spring.

OC: Did he have the second shoulder surgery?

KL: He did.

OC: Did he have a clean-up the first time and then have the full labrum surgery the second time?

KL: He did.

Ryan Ortiz is also making a comeback in the Fall League. He isn't throwing 100 percent yet, but he's getting better daily.

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