Oakland A's Spring Q&A: Keith Lieppman

Opening Day for the minor leagues is less than two weeks away. The Oakland A's front office is busy evaluating the team's minor leaguers and working on the rosters for the organization's four full-season affiliates. We caught-up with the A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman on Sunday to find out the progress of a number of A's prospects in minor league camp.

OaklandClubhouse: How is spring training going?

Keith Lieppman: It's actually going really well. Still a whole lot of injuries, unfortunately. The ongoing issue is that we are banged up. A lot of them are from last year and they are just nagging injuries. Beyond that, we are hanging in there, just trying to get through this time where a lot of guys are rehabbing and trying to make it to the next stage of health.

OC: I noticed that James Simmons isn't on any of the spring rosters. Is he hurt?

KL: Yeah, he stayed home and is just still trying to figure out what is wrong with his shoulder. He continues to have issues with that and there is still a lot of pain in there.

OC: So it may be a while before we see him then?

KL: Yeah. We anticipated that he would come to extended spring [training camp], but we are still trying to get him to the point that he can throw. Right now, he is not in a throwing program. He is still trying to figure out what is causing it.

OC: Josh Horton had off-season elbow surgery. Is he ticketed for extended spring, as well?

KL: Josh Horton showed up today. We brought him in once his throwing program ended. He is able to hit and he'll just have to finish his throwing program in extended spring.

OC: Has anyone had a standout spring thus far that maybe surprised you?

KL: Max Stassi has really looked good in his first spring training here. Going from big league camp and then starting to play in some games down here, he has looked really good, just like he did when he went to Vancouver last year and when he came to Instructional League. He is standing out. People are impressed by the way he handles himself, his maturity and just his performance. He has really done a good job as an 18-year-old in camp.

OC: Do you think that he can make that jump to full-season baseball even though he is just 18?

KL: Yeah, I think there is a very good chance that he will go to Kane County and we will see how he does.

OC: Ryan Ortiz is another solid catcher who was taken in last year's draft. Has he looked good in spring training thus far?

KL: Yes. The whole idea is, if you have two quality catchers like that, you'd like to split them up to make sure that they both get equal time. At this stage, it looks like Ortiz more than likely would go to Stockton. He is a little bit older and more mature just as far as experience-wise. You just want to make sure that they both have an opportunity to catch regularly. That's what we will try to do by splitting them up.

OC: Petey Paramore [a catcher taken in the 2008 draft] has had a tough first two years hitting in professional baseball. Do you feel like he is getting his swing together at this point?

KL: He has looked a lot better this spring. More aggressive. And he certainly was highly thought of. He will just have to continue to improve the swing because the competition level has increased considerably with the addition of Ortiz and Stassi coming. This will really be an interesting battle to see who kind of wins this one.

OC: Is Yusuf Carter still behind the plate or was that a one-year defensive experiment?

KL: No, it looks like Yusuf will go to Midland and be there along with Joel Galarraga. Both of those guys should be the catchers at Double-A.

OC: Is Joel throwing without any restrictions after the shoulder surgery he had last year?

KL: We have to be careful with him, but he should be okay to start the season. His throwing is a lot better. The surgery was successful and it is just a matter of him getting a little fatigued from time-to-time. But he has otherwise been fine.

OC: Has Rashun Dixon picked up where he left off after winning the Instructional League MVP?

KL: You know, he ran into the wall the other day. He had about 15 stitches just above his eye, so he has been setback on the shelf for the past week. We have not had that many opportunities to see him, unfortunately. He just had that fluke injury, so we are just waiting to see how it turns out with him.

OC: How have two standouts from last year's draft, Conner Crumbliss and Paul Smyth, looked in camp?

KL: Crumbliss has been outstanding. He had such a great year last year and he has been playing second base, outfield. He will definitely be at Kane County and he has definitely had one of the better springs of all of the guys in camp. Very aggressive and pretty much left off where he was at in Instructional League.

Smyth came in and had dropped about 20, 25 pounds from last year. So he is in great shape looking to have another great year.

OC: Is Ian Krol a possibility to pitch at home with Kane County this year?

KL: I think we are going to attempt to send him to Kane County. I think he is ready for it and should be able to handle it.

OC: How has Fautino De Los Santos looked since coming down from big league camp? He was hit around a lot in big league camp.

KL: His velocities are really good. They are up. But he really hasn't had any experience except one month in High-A ball and that was when he got hurt in Stockton two years ago. He hasn't developed his other pitches, his change-up and breaking ball, so more than likely he will start at a lower level just to try to increase his ability to do more than just throw hard. Because guys time his fastball and you have to have another pitch to get them off of it. A lot of our initial work with him will be on his secondary stuff and try to have something to complement that great arm of his. Once he does that, he'll go pretty fast through the system.

OC: Do you think he will be at Stockton then?

KL: Yeah.

OC: And he will be relieving exclusively at this point, right?

KL: Yes, that's correct.

OC: How about Arnold Leon? Is he going to relieve or start?

KL: Right now since Leon continued to play during winter ball [in Mexico] last year, we are going to try to hold him back so that we don't overtax him and maybe let him pitch in a piggy-back situation or out of the bullpen initially, just to save the wear-and-tear on him. But he is really looking good. He will be at Midland and has really improved and gotten better each time out.

OC: Where is Dusty Coleman at in his rehab from wrist surgery?

KL: He is taking groundballs and just now getting into a swing progression, which should take a little bit of time. He is not going to be able to break [camp] until he has been through games and we can make sure that he is healthy. So he is a ways away.

OC: Is Grant Green looking good?

KL: Yeah, he has been at shortstop. He is swinging the bat well and has improved a lot on his defense and his throwing. He looks like he will be the shortstop at Stockton.

OC: Will you try to keep Jemile Weeks and Adrian Cardenas at different levels at this point, similar to Stassi and Ortiz?

KL: Cardenas had an injury to his thumb. He has a slight tear of the ligament of his thumb. He got that diving into second base. He is out for about a month.

OC: Would that mean that Weeks would go up a level then?

KL: No, we are still in a situation where once the big league club breaks, Weeks will more than likely still start at Double-A.


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