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

It has been a busy first few weeks for Oakland A's Director of Player Personnel Keith Lieppman. For the third consecutive year, Lieppman has been forced to put minor league rosters together piecemeal thanks to injuries that have affected the entire organization. We caught-up with Lieppman on Wednesday to discuss those injuries, some early impressions and more. This is Part Two of that interview...

To view Part One of this interview, please click here.

OaklandClubhouse: Adrian Cardenas got off to a great start with Double-A Midland this season. What was the difference for him between when he played at Midland last season and this year?

Keith Lieppman: I think you have the Fall League and then you add some appearances in big league spring training. There are a lot of things that can help an individual in terms of his progress. I think it is confidence. It is understanding his swing. He's made a lot of little adjustments and as he progresses, the mental-side starts to be a big factor. That's why having him around good veteran hitters like Danny Putnam and Tom Everidge, I think has really rubbed off on a number of hitters on that team. Archie Gilbert, for one, has really developed a good plan at the plate.

That whole hitting philosophy in Midland right now is kind of like the old Oakland A's teams from a few years gone by, with a lot of walks, a lot of guys hitting for a high slugging percentage, OPS numbers are up. They really just grind the opposition. They have good at-bats. It has become something of a pride thing not to be the guy who makes the out. Every at-bat is a battle. It's like the minor version of going through the Red Sox. That is kind of the M.O. that you want to have, that every at-bat is a tough at-bat and each guy feeds off of the other guy. That is kind of what is happening in Midland.

What you have is protection throughout the line-up. Chris Carter is a guy that we wanted to make sure had a good experience. We were able to put him where we have in the line-up because we have Putnam and Everidge around him and that maybe gives him some more favorable pitches, more favorable counts. I think a lot of guys are responding to that.

OC: Are you pleased with what Carter and Corey Brown have done thus far this season? It seems like both of them have cut-down some on their strike-outs and are making more consistent contact.

KL: Yeah. Corey Brown had to go through those injuries, but he has been outstanding when he has been on the field. He has been able to make major adjustments from last year to now. The Hawaiian League, he didn't have great success there, but I think it helped him as he has progressed to this point. And that was with him having to sit a little bit with shoulder and leg problems, and yet, he is still able to continue on no problems.

OC: How about Daric Barton? He is off to a really poor start at Sacramento. Is there something that you see with players who were in the big leagues who were sent back down to the minors where they have to make a mental adjustment, or is there something mechanical that you are seeing with him?

KL: I think mentally he accepted his call to Triple-A better than anyone I have seen. His attitude is good and he understands that he has things to work on. His may be a case of just trying too hard. He sees what is available to him at the next level and all he has to do is make a few adjustments. Sometimes it's like running through sand. You are just trying so hard to get through it, but the harder you try, the harder it is to keep on moving. Or it is like a nightmare where you are just trying to get somewhere and you just can't get there. That's kind of what he is experiencing, more a mental thing. Physically, I think he is fine. I think he has to make only a few minor adjustments. His attitude is great. I think maybe he is just putting too much pressure on himself at this point.

OC: You got to see Ben Copeland some this spring and then at extended. What kind of player is he and what should we expect from him in the big leagues?

KL: Like what you saw in spring training, he is a guy who is an outstanding defender. He has tremendous speed. He could be the guy who hits for occasional power. He is somebody that our scouts really liked last year, obviously for the Rule 5 purposes, and felt there was a big upside there. A little like the metamorphosis of Ryan Sweeney. That kind of a player. You see potential and you think that he is the kind of player who is going to continue on that kind of process that we think Sweeney is going take: eventually hit for some power and be an all-around type player. A centerfielder who does a great job on defense.

OC: Are there any players who are on the verge of leaving extended spring training at this point?

KL: It is hard to know exact dates at this point, but if everything goes right, Henry Rodriguez might be out of here in a week to 10 days. Joe Dillon is making progress. We've got Aaron Cunningham down here. He just got here and so those three we are hoping will be out of here in the next week to 10 days.

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