Athletics

A's prospect Austin Beck showing all five tools, impressing Oakland brass

A's prospect Austin Beck showing all five tools, impressing Oakland brass

STOCKTON – Just over two years ago, Austin Beck became the A's highest draft pick to come straight out of high school since the club selected Ben Grieve No. 2 overall in 1994. Oakland drafted Beck with the No. 6 pick of the 2017 MLB Draft at the young age of 18.

"It was an awesome day," Beck told NBC Sports California. "I remember I got a call about a week before the draft from (MLB Network analyst) Harold Reynolds. He asked, 'Hey, do you want to come up to the draft studio and do the draft here?' I was like, 'Unless you've got 100 plane tickets, I can't go. I've got to have my family and friends by my side.' So I had a huge party at my house. It was a very stressful day, needless to say, but it was a very fun experience."

During his senior season at North Davidson High School in North Carolina, Beck hit a ridiculous .590 with 12 home runs while playing center field. He blew the A's away with his combination of speed and athleticism, not to mention his raw power.

"The talent is there," said A's assistant general manager/director of player personnel Billy Owens. "He definitely can defend center field, he's got a powerful throwing arm, he's got a swing that can manipulate the baseball and go to all fields, and the raw power is definitely in there. So he's got a chance to be a five-tool player."

Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the A's No. 5 prospect, Beck spent last season with the Class-A Beloit Snappers of the Midwest League, slashing .296/.335/.383 and leading the league with 146 hits. While he only hit two home runs, he notched 29 doubles, four triples, and 60 RBI.

"He's got the ability to make contact to all fields," Owens said. "He's got power that's going to come to prominence as he rises through the organization and gets to the higher levels. And he's a really good defender in center field. So it's just more about him getting that experience under his belt and going forward."

Beck began this season in High-A with the Stockton Ports of the California League. After a slow start, the 20-year-old has hit .409 over his last 12 games to raise his slash line to .258/.309/.461, and he has already belted six homers.

"I got to the Cal League knowing that the ball flew really well, better than Beloit, so my swing was a little too big," Beck explained. "I got in the habit of trying to hit homers. So I slowed everything down and fixed everything. I started swinging the bat really well the past month. I saw the ball, wouldn't swing at pitches out of the zone, just kind of stayed with my approach and stayed up the middle and started hitting the ball well."

A's general manager David Forst has been pleased with Beck's adjustments and subsequent improvements over the past two years.

"I think we continue to see a lot of progress from Austin," Forst told NBC Sports California. "He held his own in his first full season last year and went into Stockton this year and we saw some power numbers right away, which was nice. ... The reports continue to be good."

Beck raves about the A's organization and says he has already developed great relationships with members of the current big league squad.

"It's great," he said. "(The organization) is very laid-back, which I like. I've hung out with some of the big league guys in spring training. I've texted back and forth, just trying to pick their brains about baseball in general and the mental side of the game. ... It's been great."

Beck has received plenty of advice since turning pro, but he says the best advice came from Khris Davis.

[RELATED: Kaprielian making progress after injury]

"I talked to KD during the (preseason) Bay Bridge series and we were talking about how the mental side is one of the biggest parts of the game. If you're not mentally strong, this game is going to eat you alive. He told me to take it one day at a time, one at-bat at a time, and just flush it.

"That's kind of been my motto ever since I came out of high school -- just flush things. Baseball is 70 percent failure. It's a hard game as it is. So if you just flush every bad at-bat and move on, then you'll be fine."
 

A's closer Liam Hendriks a finalist for AL Reliever of the Year award

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A's closer Liam Hendriks a finalist for AL Reliever of the Year award

A's closer Liam Hendriks is one of three finalists for the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award.

Hendriks is joined by Astros closer Roberto Osuna and Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman. The NL finalists are Josh Hader, Will Smith, and Kirby Yates.

Hendriks, 30, enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, recording a 1.80 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. The right-hander notched 124 strikeouts in 85 innings, an A's franchise record for relievers, compared to just 21 walks.

Hendriks took over closing duties from Blake Treinen in the middle of the season and finished with 25 saves, along with eight holds. His 124 punchouts led AL relief pitchers and his 1.80 ERA ranked second among AL relievers with at least 40 innings.

Osuna posted a 2.63 ERA and 0.88 WHIP, with 73 strikeouts in 65 innings. Chapman finished with a 2.21 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, striking out 85 in 57 innings.

[RELATED: Hendriks' energy a big part of A's success]

The voting will be conducted by a panel of eight all-time great relief pitchers: Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, John Franco, and Billy Wagner. Both the AL and NL awards will be presented on October 26, before Game 4 of the World Series.

Why A's should move on from Robbie Grossman in final arbitration year

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Why A's should move on from Robbie Grossman in final arbitration year

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine 10 A's players who may or may not return to Oakland next season. For each player, we will provide reasons why the A's should bring him back and reasons why they should not, followed by a final determination.

Robbie Grossman, OF

Contract: Final year of arbitration (projected to get $3.3 million after earning $2 million this season)

Reasons to bring him back

Grossman provides versatility as a switch-hitter who can play all three outfield positions. He also has a strong record of reaching base, maintaining a .351 on-base percentage throughout his career.

The A's lineup is extremely right-handed heavy and they could certainly use another left-handed bat, particularly in the outfield. For $3.3 million, Grossman could add some value as a fourth or fifth outfielder.

Reasons to let him go

Grossman is coming off his worst season since 2015, hitting just .240/.334/.348 with six home runs and 38 RBI in 138 games. The 30-year-old has never provided much power, averaging just six homers per season in his career, with a high of 11 in 2016.

Oakland already has a crowded outfield with Ramón Laureano, Mark Canha, Stephen Piscotty, and Chad Pinder. The A's also have Dustin Fowler, Skye Bolt, and Seth Brown awaiting their opportunity in the minor leagues. Grossman isn't necessarily an upgrade over any of those names.

Final verdict

Due to their excellent outfield depth, the A's should move on without Grossman in 2020. That $3.3 million could be better spent in other areas -- relief pitching, as an example.

[RELATED: A's stay or go candidate for 2020 season: Josh Phegley]

If Grossman were to return, he would almost certainly be a bench player, and as we've noted, Oakland has plenty of other options to fill those fourth and fifth outfielder roles for far less than $3.3 million.