The A’s targeted a definite position of need by selecting North Carolina prep center fielder Austin Beck with the No. 6 overall pick in the draft Monday.
Scouting reports rave about his plus speed and plus arm, and it wasn’t a surprise to see the A’s snag Beck considering they brought him to the Coliseum for a private workout June 3, where he took batting practice in front of all of the team’s top officials.
The A’s are in need of young center field talent, both short term and long term, and Baseball America’s scouting report on Beck says he is “a high-risk, high-reward prospect whose tools compare to some of the best players in the game. If he proves that he can get to those tools consistently, Beck has the potential to develop into an All-Star.”
Listed at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Beck fell off the radar some when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee toward the end of his junior year at North Davidson High School in Arcadia, N.C. That kept him out of some showcase events. But his stock shot up this past spring with his bat speed in particular catching scouts’ eyes.
MLB Network’s John Manuel wondered if Beck could shift over to one of the corner spots eventually and become “that prototype power-hitting right fielder.”
Sean Casey of MLB Network said Beck “can flat out fly. He has plus speed and a plus arm. He has chance to be an impact center fielder. This guy has a chance to be a big-time bat in the big leagues.”
Among the knocks on his game are a tendency to get too aggressive with his strike zone and some struggles hitting breaking pitches.
The last time the A’s took a high schooler with their top pick was in 2013, when they drafted outfielder Billy McKinney.
With their second pick at No. 33 overall, the A’s grabbed South Florida shortstop Kevin Merrell, a left-handed hitter who was considered one of the fastest players in the 2017 class. He batted .384 with a .464 on-base percentage and 19 stolen bases as a junior for the Bulls. There is uncertainty over whether he projects long term at shortstop, leading to speculation about whether center field or second base could be a fit.
The A’s capped day one of the draft by taking LSU outfielder Greg Deichmann at No. 43 overall. He’s a left-handed power hitter who projects as a corner outfielder. Deichmann hit .320 this past season and led the Tigers with 19 homers and 72 RBI.