Oakland A's Mid-Season Q&A: Todd Steverson P2

How has Coleman improved this year?

In part two of our mid-season check-in with Oakland A's minor league hitting coordinator Todd Steverson, we discuss Daniel Robertson, Miles Head, Anthony Aliotti, Jake Goebbert, Dusty Coleman and Chad Oberacker.

Click here for part one of this interview.

OaklandClubhouse: Now that the knee injury is behind Beloit shortstop Daniel Robertson, do you think he is able to focus completely on playing and not have nagging worries about the knee?

Todd Steverson: I don't think he worries about his injury, honestly. It was just one thing. I think he wears a knee brace and it is what it is, but he is playing all of the time with a lot of passion and a lot of vigor. He's a joy to watch out there. He has tremendous hands on defense and a good, solid throwing arm.

He's a baseball player, but at times you can see that Daniel wants it a lot. He wants it. Sometimes that can turn into the wrong type of intensity. Rather than being as loose as he can be, sometimes he wants it so bad, he gets tighter. He is in the process of learning how to keep his relaxation and focus so that he can have all of his talents come out consistently.

He's a tremendous player and a great pick by us. He's another 19-year-old going to the plate doing quite well for himself even with missing a month of the season. You can't be mad about anything that he is doing. It's just a maturity process and I like the route that he is on.

OC: Turning to the Midland squad, Anthony Aliotti has dominated the Texas League all year. Are there things that he is working on, or is it hard to have things to work on when a player has dominated a league all year?

TS: Obviously hitting .355 two-and-a-half months into the season is a solid accomplishment. That tells us that it is consistency and that it wasn't just something where he was hot for a minute. His walks have helped. That is an ability that he has always had, the ability to take a walk. Bodes well with him being able to swing at his strikes and put them in play.

In my opinion, he didn't just jump onto the map this year. The man hit .292 last year with double-digit homeruns and he had a solid season at that level. So you can't say that he just jumped up on the scene with anything, but this is just astronomical to have a 1000 OPS for this long.

Things to work on? In my opinion, he has done the best job with this. Any hitter would be like ‘how long is this going to last? And ‘how consistent can you be to maintain it?' I think that has been the best part of his game this year is that he is able to keep the consistency of his approach from day one and not falter too much off of the beaten path.

We worked some in spring training on him being able to pull more balls that were pullable because he is an excellent opposite field hitter. When he came in he was an excellent opposite field, up-the-middle hitter. There are just some balls that he probably missed some opportunities on in the past that he could have pulled that now he is able to take that and pull that into the four-hole or shoot it into right-center or what have you. In terms of his rhythm and timing, they are all there for him right now.

OC: Jake Goebbert is in his first year with the organization. What sort of hitter is he? What have you seen from him this year?

TS: Goeb is a solid all-around player. I saw him play a little bit last year when I went into Double-A and he was playing for Corpus Christi. He would drive our pitching guy in Midland Don Schulze nuts because he would take so many quality at-bats. He would say, ‘oh boy, here comes Goebbert, we've got to be careful.' I would say he is not spectacular in any one area, but he is solid in nearly every area.

He's not slow. He's got average speed. He's thrown up 13 homeruns. He was leading the league in RBI when I left there. He played in the All-Star game. He can play first base. He can play in the outfield. Very versatile player. Plays all positions solid. Very knowledgeable about the game. He has a great routine daily that allows him to come out and show that consistency daily.

When someone comes over from another organization, you never know what you are going to get, but I think we did a good job in acquiring this man.

OC: Dusty Coleman is still striking out a lot, but he has drawn a lot more walks this year. Do you think he is making strides in controlling the strike-zone?

TS: He's hitting about 65 points higher right now than he was this time last year, so there has definitely been an improvement. The strike-outs are there. He's cut them down. I looked into it and I believe he had cut his strike-outs down from this date last year about 15 or 16. Conversely on that, he hasn't hit for as much power as he did last year yet. He has a few homeruns, but last year I know he finished with 15. Right now he just has a couple in the bag.

It's sort of a tale of two sides. Do you strike-out an inordinate amount of times like he did last year but throw up some power numbers and not have any average, or does your average go up and your power numbers go down? Are you a more productive hitter now or last year? It's always a debate in the world of baseball.

I think the fact is that he still has the power in there. He did a great job of taking the thought process to focus on putting balls in play this year, and that has actually translated onto the field a la more hits and better average. It just hasn't translated into the same amount of power while doing so yet.

Overall, I think he has done a good job. He made the All-Star team and has done a good job making the adjustment off of last year and putting it in play.

OC: Chad Oberacker is one of, if not the least experienced hitter in terms of professional at-bats on the Midland team. How do you think he has handled his first turn through the Texas League?

TS: He's in that learning stage. Obie is in his second full year. He had some success in the California League, which is a hitter's league, obviously. And he did fine out there in the Midwest League. But Double-A is really a finding yourself kind of place. The conditions, especially for a left-hander, are not always well-suited for your best success because you can hit your best ball and it doesn't even get to the warning track at times.

It becomes a very mental bout with yourself every day. It's like when a hitter battles against a pitcher; he may also battle against the elements. He may try to do things just to play to the elements. ‘Let me take this ball to left, because the wind is blowing.' Or ‘I can't pull this ball because the wind is blowing in too hard from right today and I have no chance of getting a hit.' I think that messes with you quite a bit mentally. I think he's had to go through that because he has hit some good balls that haven't had anything to show for it, like so many others on that team.

His biggest thing – and I have said it a lot – everyone has to understand who they are and how their body works and how they treat and talk to themselves. You don't want to go through the whole season just working on one thing specifically. You want to be free of mind as much as you can. Making adjustments into the league requires some mental and physical work. To be able to put that in play takes a minute.

But overall, he's still hitting around the .250 area. He's still keeping his head above water while learning what he can do in the league. Not what he can't do, but what he can do with his talents. How he gets himself out or when he has a quality at-bat. I think he is focused on having just as many quality at-bats as possible and keeping his head clear.

OC: I know he is back in Arizona, but what has happened with Miles Head this year? Is it his health, or is there something else that has caused these struggles the second time through the Texas League?

TS: Miles' injury [shoulder] obviously impacts the swing. As any player, they want to play through anything they can to keep their careers moving forward. Sometimes you just need to speak up, and say ‘I'm not me.' I think overall, Miles was just never able to be himself this year health-wise, which affected his play. I don't think he's any less of a hitter than he was last year. I just think that he was hindered by some injuries that didn't allow him to put his best foot forward every game.

I still saw the bat speed being there and the recognition and all of that, but I think he just tried to force a few too many things based on the fact that he wasn't as healthy as he wanted to be.

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