Ed Sprague Jr. Knows He Has Big Shoes To Fill
When Ed Sprague Jr. took over as farm director for the Athletics, he knew he was walking in the footsteps of giants.
“If there were a Hall of Fame for player development, those guys would definitely be in it,” Sprague said of Keith Lieppman and Karl Kuehl, the two previous Oakland farm directors.
The innovative Lieppman spent 28 years on the job, pioneering the use of analytics and numerous other creative advances in minor league operations. Kuehl was in the forefront of introducing mental studies to baseball.
Lieppman, 70, announced his retirement at the end of the season and will move into the role of a consultant to the organization. He will continue to assist at spring training and will help evaluate and train players during the season.
“Ed is an excellent choice for this position,” Lieppman said. “He is smart, creative and has a very good grasp of how analytics can help improve a farm system.”
Sprague, 52, has served two years as assistant farm director in preparation for the promotion. He has been critical in implementing recent developments, such as the change this year at instructional league, where the A’s moved from playing many games to a more individualized instruction plan.
“I’m very happy they chose me to replace Keith,” Sprague said. “We want to continue producing winning ballplayers, so when they step on the big league field, they are ready to help the team.”
Sprague said that Lieppman has hired a cadre of coaches devoted to helping the players both personally and professionally, and he plans to continue that plan. “We have great continuity here," Sprague said. "Keith cares about the coaches and the players, and that filters down through the system.”
Sprague is a former Stanford star and 1988 first-round pick of the Blue Jays. He played on Toronto’s two World Series teams in 1992 and ’93 during an 11-year major league career. He coached at Pacific for 12 seasons.
He developed his interest in analytics by reading Brian Kenny’s book "Ahead of the Curve," and has continued to pursue the subject.
“The stuff’s not going away, so I might as well learn it,” Sprague joked.
— Outfielder Luis Barrera continues to recover from shoulder injury and is expected to be completely healthy for spring training. The lefthanded hitter and thrower had a breakout 2018 season and was placed on the 40-man roster before injuries limited him in 2019 when he hit .321 in 54 games.
— Sprague praised outfielder Greg Deichmann and shortstop Nick Allen for impressive advances in the Arizona Fall League.