Oakland A's Q&A: Keith Lieppman, Part 2

In part two of his conversation with Oakland A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman, Bill Seals discusses several members of the 2012 Burlington Bees' roster and finds out what the plans are for the youngsters from the A's 2012 draft class.

To view part one of this interview, please click here.

Bill Seals: Coming off Tommy John Surgery in 2010, Julio Ramos has been a nice story albeit in short spurts. What's your evaluation of his work thus far?

KL: He's sort of on the same program that we put Pedro Figueroa on the way to getting him back up to speed after Tommy John surgery. He's running through the same process. It's caution first as we bring him back. Next year will be the big year for Ramos. This is just a teaser as he does his three innings.

We're really having to hold ourselves back by not allowing him to pitch more. Studies show that the conservative approach – taking our time with him over the big picture will create a better situation for the organization and for him. It's safety first – three innings, 30 pitches and bye-bye.

I'm chomping at the bit to say hey, ‘throw him back out there another couple innings.' He's been really good and did that in Vermont. He's surpassed our expectations about what we thought he would be able to do at this point. It's free and easy, he's aggressive.

BS: Nick Rickles, a 14th-round selection last June, is showing he has an opportunity to follow a similar path as other recent draft picks at catcher.

KL: Rickles got off to a slow start, but as he's continued on and has done an outstanding job. He might be leading in the league or organization in catching throwing percentage. He's done really high levels of throwing guys out stealing – maybe over 40 percent. Pitchers like to throw to him. With the bat, he's starting to show more aggressiveness and confidence. It's a pretty solid first year for him and he's starting to make the adjustments.

He was the leading hitter on the Vermont club last year and took them right down to the playoffs. He was instrumental in a lot of the wins they had late in the season. It's just a matter of him getting back into the same mentality. We've seen that kind of hitter off and on throughout the year, but he just hasn't been consistent.

BS: The organization has had a lot of luck with drafting college catchers the past couple years, with Rickles and the rapidly ascending Beau Taylor.

KL: Beau really had a solid year catching and DH'ing at Burlington [last year]. He suffered a couple injuries with his back and wasn't able to play much in spring training. He came out late. But the bat carries him. He came out stroking in Stockton and is starting to get a better feel for catching. He played well enough to deserve the promotion to Double-A and he's playing well there so far.

BS: You've got Midwest League All-Star Sean Jamieson and Futures Game participant Zhi Fang Pan manning the middle infield in Burlington. What are your evaluations on these two?

KL: I'm really happy with Jamieson. I was hoping that consistency-wise with the bat he might be at a higher level. But his approach is good. Part of this learning curve is making the adjustments. He's got really good hands at the plate and in the field. The tools are there, but he has to be more consistent with it. You'll see him make some outstanding plays on defense with quickness and range. He's had a positive year for us, even though the numbers might not show it. The .230-.240 batting average should increase as we get later in the season.

Pan is the kid who can put the ball on the ground and has great speed. He's a nice defender that turns a double play as good as anybody. He just has to get stronger to play at the upper levels. That's his next goal – add some strength to accompany the speed. He has that capability to take the ball to both sides of the field. He can hit-and-run and get on base. He's got a good idea at the plate, takes pitches and understands the strike zone.

BS: Finally, back to the high school draft picks from this year. They've all performed well in the Arizona Rookie League. Have they all put themselves in position to open next season at Burlington?

KL: It will all play out over the next nine months. They have certainly shown the capability of being able to come to this league. A lot of organizations use this [Midwest] league for their high school and junior colleges to come here right away. We have gone the other direction and let them go through Vermont and the New York-Penn League. If they're good enough, they should be able to handle this.

We used to have two clubs in the Cal League – Visalia and Modesto. Those produced guys like Eric Chavez, who at 19 went to that league and hit .270-.280 at Visalia. His progression went rapidly to the big leagues. If you move guys a little quicker, it allows you to find out if they're capable of making that jump. A lot of those guys may end up being at this level next year.

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