The Athletics announced on Thursday that Keith Lieppman will step down from his post as director of player development and transition to a role as a special adviser to the front office. He’ll be succeeded by Ed Sprague, who has been promoted after serving as Lieppman’s assistant director for the last year.
Lieppman, 70, has become something of a legend within the Athletics organization, which he has served for nearly five decades dating to the early 1970s when the team drafted him in the second round. Between his years as a player, minor league manager, and executive, Lieppman has had his hand in decades of great Athletics baseball. He requested to step away from his position in order to spend more time with his family, recommending Sprague to replace him.
Sprague has served in the player development department for the last four seasons, first as an instruction coordinator before earning the title of assistant director for the 2019 season. He has also worked as the organization’s coordinator of on-field analytics, integrating the team’s analytic systems into the player development process. A former Major League All-Star, Sprague also served as the head coach for the University of Pacific prior to joining the Athletics.
Organizational figures like Sprague and Lieppman, who operate largely behind the scenes, often go unnoticed and under-appreciated since it’s awfully hard to quantify their contributions. Still, it seems that the Athletics’ player development department has enjoyed quite a bit of success with Lieppman at the helm. The current roster boasts a wealth of homegrown talent, including stars Matt Olson and Matt Chapman, with A.J. Puk and others on the way. Sean Manaea and Jesus Luzardo, though they were drafted by other clubs, have spent the majority of their careers with Oakland. Of course, that’s only recently: the organization has also drafted and developed stars like Barry Zito, Eric Chavez, Nick Swisher, and more.