Athletics

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.

What Matt Olson injury means for A's offense, defense at first base

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AP/USATSI

What Matt Olson injury means for A's offense, defense at first base

The A's fears became a reality Friday when Gold Glove first baseman Matt Olson had to undergo surgery on his right hand.

No timetable has been provided for Olson's return, but a 2018 article in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine which studied similar procedures suggests he will likely miss three to seven weeks.

This is obviously a huge loss for Oakland. Beyond Olson's terrific defense, the 24-year-old provided tremendous power in the middle of the lineup.

Last season, Olson slashed .247/.335/.453 with 29 home runs and 84 RBI. That production won't be easy to replace, but the A's do have some reasonable options.

Platoon players Mark Canha and Chad Pinder can both play first base, and carry plenty of power in their bats. Canha clubbed 17 home runs and 22 doubles last year in just 365 at-bats. Pinder, meanwhile, hit 28 homers in 580 at-bats over the last two seasons.

Another option for the A's is to move Jurickson Profar to first base -- where he played 24 games last year -- and start Franklin Barreto at second. Barreto is coming off a terrific spring, hitting .375 (12-for-32) with a home run, four doubles, three RBI, five walks, and eight runs scored.

Barreto now has a great chance to make the 25-man roster in Olson's place. The 23-year-old has long been considered one of the A's top prospects, but has never had a chance to get consistent playing time in the big leagues. Oakland moved him from second base to the outfield this spring, but now a return to second makes sense.

[RELATED: Can A's regroup after rough beginning to season?]

The A's are fortunate to have enough offensive depth to survive the loss of Olson, but the biggest impact will likely show up on defense. Olson's height and scooping ability at first base will be incredibly hard to replace.

Nonetheless, Oakland showed the ability to overcome injury adversity last season. The A's just have to do it again this year.

A's first baseman Matt Olson undergoes surgery on his right hand

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AP

A's first baseman Matt Olson undergoes surgery on his right hand

The A's announced on Friday that 2018 Gold Glove first baseman Matt Olson underwent successful right hamate excision surgery on his right hand. The surgery was performed in Los Angeles by Dr. Steven Shin:

Olson left Thursday's game against the Mariners in Japan due to some discomfort in his right hand as he was having some trouble gripping his bat. 

While we are unsure how long Olson will be out, this article in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine states similar injuries could sideline players from three to seven weeks with the median time ranging around five weeks.

For now, the A's do have Mark Canha who can play first base. Jurickson Profar is always an option as well since he can play anywhere. But he covers so much range in the middle of the infield, picturing him anywhere else but second base seems strange.

We knew this was looking like bad news when it happened, but now that we know for sure, the A's need to figure out a more direct plan knowing the team is without their first baseman and a very powerful bat to start out the season.