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.