Athletics

A's top prospect ranking: Why Austin Beck comes in at No. 9 overall

A's top prospect ranking: Why Austin Beck comes in at No. 9 overall

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine the top 10 prospects in the A's organization. For each player, we will provide a scouting report and a realistic timetable for reaching the major leagues, as well as what he needs to do to stay there.

No. 9 - Austin Beck, OF

The A's remain very high on Beck, and why shouldn't they? Oakland drafted the outfielder No. 6 overall out of high school in 2017 and he has shown flashes of his potential already.

Beck is still just 20 years old and coming off a solid season at High-A Stockton. In 85 games, he slashed .251/.302/.411 with eight home runs, 22 doubles, and 49 RBI. The previous year, he posted an even better .296/.335/.383 slash line at Class-A Beloit as a 19-year-old.

"He's got the ability to make contact to all fields," A's assistant general manager/director of player personnel Billy Owens told NBC Sports California earlier this year. "He's got power that's going to come to prominence as he rises through the organization and gets to the higher levels."

Beck has also displayed terrific defensive ability, both in center and right field. MLB Pipeline rates him as a strong fielder and thrower of the baseball, with above-average speed as well.

Said 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."

Beck will likely spend the majority of the 2020 season at Double-A Midland. If he performs well there, he figures to get a shot at Triple-A Las Vegas in 2021 and could potentially make his major league debut late that year, or in 2022.

[RELATED: A's prospect rankings: No. 10 -- Nick Allen]

For the moment, the A's have a lot of depth in the outfield, but that could certainly change by the time Beck is ready for the big leagues. Mark Canha is set to become a free agent after the 2020 season, while Chad Pinder is already entering his arbitration years.

If Beck can continue to develop his power stroke, while simultaneously improving his all-around approach at the plate, his natural speed and athleticism should put him in position to become an impact player for the A's in the not too distant future.

Bob Melvin confident in A's young depth heading into Winter Meetings

Bob Melvin confident in A's young depth heading into Winter Meetings

The A's are at the MLB Winter Meetings with eyes on providing manager Bob Melvin with even more options to fill out his lineup, but it's not as if he doesn't have plenty to choose from already.

Whether it's the starting rotation, the infield or the outfield, Oakland possesses great depth at many positions, and a lot of that depth is young.

Both Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk made their long-awaited debuts for the A's last season, and Melvin told NBC Sports California that both are expected to be in the starting rotation when the season commences. Just how many players are a member of that rotation remains to be seen, however.

"I think anything is possible for us," Melvin said of the rotation. "We like to get a little bit creative. I think ideally guys like to be in a five-man rotation, it allows them to prepare. But whether it's the piggybacking-type thing, whether it's a six-man rotation for a period of time ... anything creative I think we would potentially look at, but I think as we go into the season right now, we'd probably look at a five-man rotation to start."

One would imagine that both Sean Manaea and Mike Fiers have been earmarked for two more spots in the starting rotation, as might Frankie Montas. Melvin also mentioned players like Chris Bassitt, Daulton Jeffries and James Kaprielian as additional pitching options.

That depth extends to the infield, as well. The A's were so confident in their second-base options that they felt comfortable trading Jurickson Profar to the Padres. Between Franklin Barreto, Jorge Mateo, Sheldon Neuse and even Chad Pinder, Oakland has several bodies to consider pairing with shortstop Marcus Semien in the middle of the infield. The trouble is, each of them bats right-handed, as does the vast majority of the A's current lineup. That doesn't seem to concern Melvin too much, though.

"I think we're always looking potentially for another left-handed bat in a little bit of a right-handed dominant lineup," Melvin explained, "but we're comfortable with the guys we have right now and we feel like we have multiple options."

The A's manager went on to admit that, in a perfect world, Oakland would be able to add a few left-handers, particularly considering the abundance of dominant right-handed starters in the AL West. The Angels reportedly are pursuing Gerrit Cole, and he could be the best of the bunch. The A's are aware of what their competitors are doing at the Winter Meetings, but they have reason to be confident.

[RELATED: Why Yankees offering Cole $245M is good for Giants, A's]

"We keep an eye on the teams in our division," Melvin said. "We keep our eyes on every team in the league, but at the end of the day, it's about what we can do to enhance our club and make our club better. You're talking about a club that's won 97 games two years in a row, so we feel pretty good about where we're at."

The A's already possess a deep roster, but perhaps with an addition or two, a deep playoff run could be in store.

A's Billy Beane reveals he has Kyler Murray on his fantasy football team

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AP

A's Billy Beane reveals he has Kyler Murray on his fantasy football team

SAN DIEGO -- Kyler Murray still has a fan in Billy Beane.

After Murray spurned a potential MLB career with the A’s to play quarterback in the NFL, Beane admits that he still holds a fondness for his former prospect and enjoys watching the now-Arizona Cardinals QB play football. 

“I love it, I text him -- he’s on my fantasy team,” Beane said at the MLB Winter Meetings on Monday night. “I texted him, I said ‘I gotcha again.’ He texted me back and just gave a big heart.

“He’s a great kid.”

Beane, the A’s executive vice president of baseball operations, was paramount in Oakland selecting Murray with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, believing the dual-sport athlete would thrive as a speedy outfielder at the big-league level. The A’s signed Murray to a contract with a $4.66 million signing bonus, which also allowed him to continue playing football that fall at Oklahoma.

But Kyler put on a show for the Sooners on the gridiron and never looked back. Murray won the 2018 Heisman Trophy, throwing for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns and running for another 1,001 yards with 12 scores.

After months of speculation about whether he would declare for the NFL draft or continue his commitment with the A’s, Murray decided on Feb. 11 that he would focus entirely on his football career, forgoing baseball.

[RELATED: How Forst thinks state of free-agent market will affect A's]

The Cardinals took Murray with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, making him the first player in history to be drafted in the first round of both the MLB and the NFL drafts.

Murray has had a strong rookie campaign for Arizona, throwing for 3,060 yards and 16 touchdowns, with 448 yards and four more TDs on the ground.

So with those solid numbers, here’s the question we all want to know: How is Beane’s fantasy team doing this season?

“First time not making the playoffs,” Beane said with a laugh.