Oakland A's Coaching Q&A: Todd Steverson

It might be the off-season, but the Oakland A's minor league coaching staff has been hard at work since the regular season concluded. Last week, we caught-up with A's minor league hitting coordinator Todd Steverson, who this off-season has led the hitting program at the A's US fall Instructional League and visited the Dominican for the A's fall camp in the DR.

OaklandClubhouse: How was your time at the Dominican Instructional League camp?

Todd Steverson: It was good. It was really enlightening. We have some pretty decent players down there.

OC: Anyone catch your eye in particular?

TS: We just signed a couple of guys. The Berrera kid [Luis Barrera]. Chavez [Jose Chavez] a catcher from Mexico, he was good. Paz [Andy Paz-Garriga], another catcher. Of course, Munoz [Yairo Munoz].

OC: Are they making progress towards some of those guys making it over here next year?

TS: Definitely. I think it is always good to see those guys ourselves. Emo [Scott Emerson, A's minor league pitching coordinator] and Lipp [Keith Lieppman, A's Director of Player Development] and myself, we all made the trip down there. I think being over there on the island, I think it gives them an extra boost. They get a chance to show their skills off on a daily basis in front of myself and Lipp and Emo. We don't get a chance to see those guys as much as we do the guys who are playing Stateside.

It's a good program down there. It is run well.

OC: Were there any players sent to the Dominican program from the US?

TS: We sent Chad Lewis and Dusty Robinson down there.

OC: Did they get some good work in there?

TS: They did get some good work in there. They were able to accomplish a few things. Obviously the US Instructional League is limited to a certain number of players. We can't bring everybody, but there are players that we like to get extra work with that we weren't able to get to [US Instructs]. It was a good thing that their schedules allowed them to go out there and I think it was a real positive for those two.

OC: I know it has been a couple of months, but going back to the US Instructional camp, how do you feel like the camp went with the young draft class that the organization brought in this season? Was it more competitive than in past years or was it more in-line with a normal camp?

TS: I'll be honest with you, in all of my years being here, this year with the type of kids who showed up and the type of enthusiasm they displayed and attention to detail of what we were trying to get across was very high. These guys worked every day. On the last day, normally the guys are talking about getting home to see their girlfriends or their moms or dads or whatever, but with these guys, it seemed like you could have sent them out there for another week. Now maybe I'm wrong and it was just the look I got, but they were very enthusiastic about the whole program and enjoyed it.

We do our best to try to make baseball fun but very detail oriented so they get across what professional baseball is all about and what we are going with.

OC: Some of the new guys to the program, particularly Addison Russell and B.J. Boyd, how did they come out of the camp? Did they make a lot of adjustments?

TS: They are very talented young men. Addison, obviously making the jumps that he did and having the kind of success that he did during the season just speaks to the kind of athlete that he is and the type of baseball person that he is and what has already been instilled in him coming up through the prep ranks.

B.J. is a lot more raw of a player. He is a football/baseball player. The professional game may have enlightened him more than, say, Addison, because [B.J.] was more of a two-sport star in Palo Alto. Having a one sport every day and probably the adjustments from high school to professional baseball and having the guys throw 90+ everyday is always going to be an adjustment, especially when you don't see it in high school everyday. His adjustment is a little different than Addison's because Addison played in a lot of showcases and so on and so forth, whereas B.J. was in football practice.

But talented, both of them. Both have tremendous speed and great game awareness that you can't really evaluate. It's tough to evaluate [B.J.'s] game awareness until you see him on an everyday basis. The instincts part is a very tough part of the game to teach and is really almost unteachable. It's just something that is G-d-given and they both have good instincts. That's a plus for our level of coaching.

OC: How is B.J. defensively? Do you think he is someone who can play centerfield?

TS: As I said, he's extremely fast and he does get good jumps. He is out there on pure athleticism right now. Once he starts to understand his angles and that sort of thing, he can be a superior centerfielder. He gets to balls now that you didn't think he would get to. Some of those are on pure speed. Route running and breaks are going to allow him to enhance what he has already got on a G-d-given, instinctual level. I definitely think he can be a centerfielder, for sure.

OC: Do you think that he can make the jump to full-season ball or do you think he will need more time in the short-season leagues given how much time he spent playing football in high school?

TS: You don't want to put any restraints on anybody. If they come out and they show that they are capable of playing somewhere or if they can jump to another level and everybody in the front office and coaching staff is in agreement with the decision, then it can happen.

Sometimes you send guys to a higher level thinking that he can do something that it turns out he isn't ready for and it can stunt their progression, but you don't know that until they get there or you can do an eye-test and see what it looks like. Him being 18, going on 19 years old, you don't have to rush anything for sure. But if he is ready to go and everyone is in agreement with it, then it isn't a problem.

OC: Another young player who has been in your system a couple of years is Aaron Shipman. His numbers haven't matched his potential yet. Do you think he is making progress?

TS: Aaron came on a lot better towards the end of the year there [in Burlington]. He was not quite healthy all year long. I know what you are saying. He was one of our higher draft picks and the thought process is that he would be a little further along than he is, but the game of baseball takes its time.

Truth be told, that Midwest League is not an easy league to hit in. He is still a tremendous athlete, but putting your game together as a player doesn't come in one year or six months or what have you. He struggled. Every player at some point in his career struggles. Now he is able to put that in his arsenal to get better. You don't want to say, ‘I'm glad he struggled,' but now he has an idea of things that were going on when he did struggle that he can stop a lot faster than he did this year.

Just pure growth and maturity tends to help a lot of players. With him coming up for his third year, hopefully that will be the case for him. He does still possess a lot of talent.

OC: B.A. Vollmuth jumped a level during the year, but had a lot of peaks and valleys during the season. What do you see for him going into next year?

TS: B.A., in my opinion, is one of our better right-handed hitters in the organization. He's got a tremendously talented bat. He can hit homeruns and can use the whole field. I think B.A. never really truly got hot. If you look at his numbers over the course of the year, they were pretty similar at both levels. I don't believe he is the type of player who strikes out as much as he did this year. I think he should improve upon that next year.

But he is a very good hitter. I'm pleased with his progress during the Instructional League. I think his big thing is that he needs to keep working on being a complete player and really hone in on that defensive side.

If he hones in on that and if he shows the potential that he has with the bat, then we've got a player. Baseball is not just one-sided. We want complete players.

OC: Did Chris Bostick make progress during the Instructional League? I know he had a strong camp last year.

TS: Bostick had a good Instructional League. He really embraces knowledge. As a coach, you really love to see guys come out at that level who want to learn and want to hear everything that you have to say as coaches to get better. He wasn't quite in the B.J. Boyd level, but Chris was a football player also. He was also an East Coast guy, so he didn't get to play as much as the West Coast guys do or the Texas guys.

He didn't finish his year in Vermont the way that it started. It started off really, really good. He did get hurt for a minute there. But I think overall, the kid is energetic and a real asset to the organization. Once again, you are talking about another 19-year-old. It's really fun for us to talk about guys who are considered really highly in our organization who are not 25, 26 years old. They are 18, 19, 20 years old. That's a great thing for us to work with.

OC: Max Muncy was one of the first position players from this year's draft class to play in a full-season league. What kind of hitter is he?

TS: Max has a great eye. If you look at his numbers, he has more walks than strikeouts and he was able to compete at the Low-A level right out of college. A good first baseman. He's got a good glove over there. Uses the whole field. He's another guy who is really enthusiastic about the game and takes it seriously. Good kid overall.

Once again, as a coach, you have to love the fact that we signed a baseball player. He goes out and does all of this work and he's very emphatic about it. And that's all you can ask. Once you have that ability to do what he does in terms of his recognition – he has very good pitch recognition – we try to teach that every day. That's one of the biggest parts of hitting is pitch recognition. He's already got that skill right now and that's going to bode well for him in the future.

OC: Did you have a chance to work much with David Freitas during Instructs?

TS: Yeah, I did. David has some strength. In terms of his catching, as far as I saw, he's a solid catcher. Everyone needs to work on certain areas, and Marcus [Jensen] worked more with him on his defense. In terms of his offense, he has some pop in his bat. He knows how to use the whole field. It's a matter of him being able to put it all together also in terms of his effort level and approach.

Coming from one organization to another, you hope that you aren't so far apart in terms of philosophies. Certain players can get confused if some of the messages being sent to them over the past three years were one thing and then they get sent somewhere else and they hear another thing. It's a matter of how they put it into their game. We do our best over here with the A's to kind of simplify the whole thing of hitting and the effort level that they are putting into their game.

OC: Another catcher, Bruce Maxwell, didn't hit for a lot of power in Vermont, but he had a lot of power in college. Did he start to get some of that back in Arizona?

TS: I'm know he hit a homer in Instructional League, so he didn't go without for the year. It's not a concern for me at all. The tool is there. Truth be told, he's another guy who has good pitch recognition. He is another go-getter kind of player that we have. If you swing at strikes, with the strength and ability that he has, the homeruns will come. If you start trying to hit homeruns, you'll probably start seeing a donut hole or two or three.

Just having a solid approach and the good pitch recognition that he has now, should allow him in the pro game to hit more homeruns. All in all, as with most organizations, we want guys to learn to be a hitter first. If someone hits homeruns, that's great. But the game is tailored around good, solid hitters who consistently have quality at-bats.

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