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."