Athletics

A's select high school OF Austin Beck with No. 6 overall pick in 2017 Draft

A's select high school OF Austin Beck with No. 6 overall pick in 2017 Draft

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.

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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.

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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.

Here are three questions facing A's as 2019 season opens Vs. Mariners

Here are three questions facing A's as 2019 season opens Vs. Mariners

The A's and Mariners are officially just hours away from opening the MLB season in Japan. For those die-hard fans (and insomniacs) who plan to stay up all night to watch the game, here are four questions to keep an eye on:

Who bats third?

Jed Lowrie's departure leaves a huge hole in the middle of the A's lineup. Oakland has a few candidates to fill that void, including newly-acquired second baseman Jurickson Profar. However, Stephen Piscotty and Matt Olson are probably the best options at this point.

With the A's facing left-hander Marco Gonzales in the season opener, expect to see the right-handed hitting Piscotty batting third. If he performs well, it could be his job to lose, though Olson figures to get some opportunities against right-handed pitchers, at least early in the year.

Who starts at catcher?

The A's also lost their starting catcher from last season as Jonathan Lucroy signed with the rival Angels. With Chris Herrmann injured, the starting job will go to either Nick Hundley or Josh Phegley, both of whom performed well in spring training.

Hundley figures to have the edge to start the season due to his better offensive numbers over the years. The 35-year-old has a career OPS of .706, compared to Phegley's .635.

Is Mike Fiers ready to be a number one starter?  

Fiers gets the honor of starting on Opening Day. The 33-year-old is coming off the best season of his career, going 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA between Detroit and Oakland in 2018. He was rewarded with a two-year, $14.1 million contract this offseason.

Throughout his career, Fiers has primarily been a fourth or fifth starter. This year he finally has his chance to be an ace. The right-hander certainly has the right mindset to handle any added pressure, but the A's would like to see him get off to a good start.

A's players talk crushing sushi, baseballs in Japan for Opening Series

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A's players talk crushing sushi, baseballs in Japan for Opening Series

What does a professional baseball team do when traveling to Japan?

It’s pretty simple for the Oakland A's, who are currently there to open up the 2019 regular season against the Seattle Mariners on March 20 and 21.

-Eat sushi
-Play baseball
-Eat more sushi

The A’s have already played two exhibition games against teams from Japan, and the Japanese crowds are loving the Green and Gold.

A “Let’s go Oakland!” chant even broke out in the middle of a game.

If you feel so inclined to cheer on the A's during their two regular season games in Japan, there will be a watch party (not so) bright and early for first pitch at 2:35 a.m. PT