A's felt 2017 first-rounder Austin Beck's 'bat ability was unique'

A's felt 2017 first-rounder Austin Beck's 'bat ability was unique'

Apparently Austin Beck’s cross-country trip to work out for the A’s was time well spent for all involved.

Executive vice president Billy Beane, general manager David Forst and their staff looked on June 3 as Beck used his right-handed stroke to send drive after drive over the wall at the Coliseum during a private workout after a game against the Washington Nationals.

Not that the A’s needed all that much convincing, but the hitting display solidified the high school center fielder from North Carolina as the player they wanted when the No. 6 draft pick rolled around Monday.

“It was as impressive a high school workout in our stadium as I’ve seen,” A’s scouting director Eric Kubota said. “He hit in our stadium like big leaguers hit in our stadium.”

Taken with the sixth pick, Beck is the highest Oakland has drafted a high school player since selecting outfielder Ben Grieve at No. 2 overall in 1994.

Chatting with reporters on a conference call after his selection, Beck said he was thrilled to join the A’s.

“I don’t really have any words,” he said. “They all went out the door when my name was called.”

As for how he planned to celebrate Monday night, Beck suggested: “I think I’ll probably go fishing with my buddies.”

Beck hit .590 and homered 12 times in 28 games as a senior for North Davidson High in Arcadia, N.C. That included three homers in his final game in the state playoffs.

Kubota pointed to Beck’s terrific bat speed as the component of his game the A’s grew most enamored with.

“We felt the bat ability was unique to this draft, and maybe several drafts,” he said. “You just don’t see a guy with that kind of bat speed he’s got.”

But Kubota was just as impressed with Beck’s personality and demeanor during his one-day visit to Oakland.

“We were really impressed,” Kubota said. “Austin comes from a small town in North Carolina. He had to sit around and hang out and was around our scouting staff. There was just a lot of down time. He handled himself extremely well and added to our comfort level. It’s only one day, but everything helps a little bit” in evaluating.

The visit also gave team doctors and trainers a chance to examine Beck, who was sidelined toward the end of his junior year after undergoing surgery for an anterior crucial ligament injury to his left knee. He checked out fine, and now the A’s hope they have a long-range answer in center field, where their farm system is lacking in sure-fire prospects both short and long term.

The A’s had two other high picks Monday, taking University of South Florida shortstop Kevin Merrell with the 33rd overall pick. MLB Network analysts raved about his speed, calling him one of the fastest players in the entire draft. Kubota believes Merrell has the ability to stay at short, but noted his athleticism could make him an option at other infield spots or the outfield.

After the A’s took pitchers with all three of their first-day picks last year, it was no surprise to see them emphasize the outfield this year. With the 43rd pick, they selected LSU outfielder Greg Deichmann, whose power is his calling card. Kubota said he projects as a corner guy.

Now officially in the fold, Lucroy ready to work with young A's pitchers


Now officially in the fold, Lucroy ready to work with young A's pitchers

The Oakland A's made it official: They finally got their man behind the plate. 

Oakland officially announced the signing of veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy on Monday. Lucroy's deal is reportedly worth $6.5 million, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser.

Lucroy joined his new teammates for the first time in Arizona on Monday, and told reporters that he is especially excited to work with the club's young, promising pitching staff. The three returning leaders in innings pitched (Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton) are all 27-years-old or younger, and 22-year-old top prospect A.J. Puk is pushing for a rotation spot after allowing just one run in three appearances this spring. 

"I'm looking forward to working with these guys and trying to help them get better and get better myself along the way," Lucroy told reporters. "I think that's what it's all about; taking what they do best and try to simplify their approach ... Really, just doing anything I can with them to get hitters out."

Manager Bob Melvin told reporters that he thinks Lucroy's experience will prove beneficial to his young staff.

"If we can't go out and get ourselves a [starting pitcher], that's the next best thing," Melvin told reporters on Monday. "So, he's got a lot of experience, and a great reputation for being a teriffic leader behind the plate."

Lucroy, 31, slashed .265/.345/.371 in 481 plate appearances with the Texas Rangers and Colorado Rockies last season, hitting six home runs with 40 RBI, his lowest marks in those categories since his rookie season in 2010.

In order to accomodate Lucroy's signing the, the A's designated left-handed pitcher Jairo Labourt for assignment. Labourt was acquired off of waivers on Mar. 4, and Labourt's arrival prompted the eventual release of Brandon Moss one month into his Oakland reunion.

Maxwell speaks about anthem protest, but stays mum on legal issues


Maxwell speaks about anthem protest, but stays mum on legal issues

When A's catcher Bruce Maxwell knelt during the anthem last season, he was the first MLB player to do so. He knelt before each of each of Oakland's final nine games, in order to protest racial inequality and in response to President Trump's incendiary comments about NFL players kneeling, but ended the season as the only MLB player to kneel during the anthem. 

This season, he won't kneel at all, he told reporters in a statement on the first day of spring training. 

“Obviously, I didn’t take that lightly,” Maxwell told the San Francisco Chronicle prior to the release of his statement.  “That was to bring awareness to a problem and the face we do see it, we do experience and we have empathy for what’s going on. This year I don’t plan on kneeling. … And we’ll move on forward.”

While Maxwell did address his protest during the anthem, he largely did not address his offseason legal issues.

“It’s ongoing, I can’t really discuss details,” he said. “It’s something me and my lawyers are handling.”

On Oct. 28, Maxwell was arrested in Scottsdale after allegedly pointing a gun at a food-delivery person. He pleaded not guilty to felony charges of aggravated assault and disorderly conduct in November, and is set for a settlement conference on April 13 after failing to reach a plea agreement on Monday, according to the Chronicle. 

If an agreement cannot be reached, Maxwell's trial is set to begin on Aug. 9.