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Oakland A’s 2019 Community Prospect List #5: Austin Beck shows improvement in first full season

The former 1st-round pick has tons of talent and made some adjustments toward tapping into it.

Photo credit: Justin Nuoffer | Beloit Snappers

Our 2019 Community Prospect List now has its Top 5. Here’s the current list, including their winning margins (the difference between his % of the vote, and the % of the runner-up):

  1. Jesus Luzardo, LHP (+78%)
  2. A.J. Puk, LHP (+7%)
  3. Sean Murphy, C (+80%)
  4. Lazaro Armenteros, OF (+1%)
  5. Austin Beck, OF (+59%)

The Oakland A’s top prospects don’t always pass through the Single-A Beloit Snappers, as they sometimes skip the level and go straight up to High-A. Two of the best played for Beloit last summer, though, and they even stood next to each other in the outfield. Now they’re both in the Top 5 of our CPL, and basically in a tie with each other — Austin Beck ranked ahead last winter, but this time Lazaro Armenteros edged him out by one vote.

Whereas Lazarito put up impressive raw numbers for the Snappers, Beck’s success was more about the progress he made along the way. He refined his plate discipline, tweaked the mechanics of his swing, and generally got experience in making daily adjustments against pro competition — read all about it from our own special report, or over at Oakland Clubhouse. Indeed, you can see consistent improvement in his numbers:

Apr 5 thru May 31: .269/.311/.341, 83 wRC+, 23.5% Ks, .071 isolated slugging
Jun 2 thru Sep 3: .281/.321/.361, 93 wRC+, 21.4% Ks, .079 isolated slugging
Jul 31 thru Sep 3: .353/.387/.474, 145 wRC+, 20.4% Ks, .120 isolated slugging

His strikeout rate dropped as the year went on, and not only did his power hold steady but it actually increased. The walk rate didn’t stray at all — literally, it was exactly 5.6% in each split. That’s the kind of stuff I’d hope to see from the adjustments he reportedly made, which provides plenty of optimism that he’s on the right track. The uptick in average in that final split has some BABIP involved, but at this low level of the minors even that can be an encouraging sign rather than a fluke to be written off, if it means he simply began barreling up the weak pitching he was facing.

The big thing we’re still waiting to see is his power, after hitting two homers in 534 plate appearances, but there’s no need for alarm. Beck’s most recent adjustments seem more inclined toward general approach and pitch recognition and making consistent contact even if it means temporarily sacrificing some slugging, and in the Clubhouse post linked above he noted that he’ll “be working [over the offseason] on some launch angle stuff to get my power numbers up next season.” Nobody doubts his raw power, including John Sickels, with the only question being how much of it he’ll learn to tap into.

This is what we’re talking about when we say to have patience with teenage prospects, because development can be a long process and the box score doesn’t tell the full story of everything going on. The Angels drafted Jo Adell out of high school just a few picks after Beck in 2017 and he’s already jumped up to Double-A, but his immediate success doesn’t mean Beck is a bust just for taking a more scenic route. He’ll still be the age of a college sophomore this-coming season.

Add it all up, and Beck is still a premium prospect, with power, speed, and a defensive profile that should land him in either CF or RF. He isn’t on any national Top 100 lists, at least partly because of his mediocre stats so far, but the tools are still there and the ceiling is still high. On a speculative note, the reports about his summer of adjustments have me confident about his work ethic and his openness to coaching, which aren’t always guaranteed at this intersection of youth and extreme talent. Hopefully that can go a long way toward him translating his potential and learning how to put it all together on the field.

Lazarito has the better early numbers, but also the biggest red flag in his high strikeout rate. Beck has the higher defensive ceiling and more advanced plate discipline, but hasn’t done much actual hitting yet and has everything to prove. You could make a strong case for either one over the other on this CPL, but the important thing is they’re both great prospects off to promising starts in the pros.

Here is the process:

  • Five candidates will be listed on the ballot. The voting will take place in the comments section. I will start with a comment listing all five players, and then I will respond to that with five new comments in the style of “Vote: Player Name” for each candidate. Please do not reply directly to the official “Vote” comments, so that the ballot can stay together in one group.
  • Choose your ONE favorite by Rec’ing the comment with his name. Please only vote for one. The player who receives the most Rec’s earns the next spot on the CPL, while the remaining four players move on to the next ballot where they are joined by a new nominee.
  • In the comments, below the official voting, the community will nominate players to be put onto the ballot for the next round. Similar to the ballot, I will start with a comment calling for nominations, which can then be made as a response to my comment. The format for your comment should be “Nomination: Player Name”.
  • After the first nomination for a player has been put in, all other votes for that player will come from Rec’ing his comment. The player with the most Rec’s earns the nomination.
  • If a prospect is traded, his name will be crossed out, and all other players will be moved up a space. If a prospect is acquired, a special vote will be put up to determine where that player should rank.

* * *

The new nominee is Parker Dunshee. He was a mid-round draft sleeper in 2017, and he’s done nothing but get outs in the pros. After posting a 0.00 ERA in Low-A Vermont his first year, he breezed through High-A and Double-A last season and actually got better at the higher level. His ceiling is supposedly low, but that hasn’t stopped him from consistently dominating so far. If he keeps it up this summer then an MLB debut wouldn’t be out of the question.

Hitter rates (poor/avg/great): wRC+ (75/100/135), BB% (5.0%/8.5%/12.0%), K% (30%/22%/14%)

Parker Dunshee, RHP

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 24

2018 stats (A+): 2.70 ERA, 70 ip, 82 Ks, 17 BB, 7 HR, 3.53 FIP
2018 stats (AA): 2.01 ERA, 80⅔ ip, 81 Ks, 14 BB, 5 HR, 2.92 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 50 | Curveball: 45 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55 | Overall: 45

What Dunshee may lack in stuff he makes up for with pitchability, showing feel for sequencing and commanding for pitches. He works with average velocity, sitting 89-92 mph with a fastball that he throws with late sinking action and commands to both sides of the plate. He changes speeds well, utilizing a slider and a changeup, both average pitches, as well as a curveball that serves as a change-of-pace offering. He repeats his simple delivery with ease and throws all four of his pitches for strikes.

Dunshee gets the most of his average stuff, and while he doesn’t project to miss as many bats at higher levels as he has earlier in his career, he’s adept at generating weak contact and has proven plenty durable. It is a No. 5-starter profile if it all clicks, with the floor of a middle reliever capable of eating innings.

* * *

Jorge Mateo, SS

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 24

2018 stats (AAA): 510 PAs, 62 wRC+, 3 HR, 25 SB, 5.7% BB, 27.3% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 45 | Run: 80 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50

Mateo has a nice all-around set of tools, but it’s his elite speed that enables him to truly impact games. He led the Minors with 82 steals in 2015 and tied for third with 52 in ‘17 to push his career total to 234 stolen bases in his first six pro seasons. Mateo’s wheels are equally dynamic out of the box, as he regularly turns in top-of-the-scale run times from home to first. His deceptive strength translates to sneaky raw power and he has an offensive ceiling of a .275 hitter with 15 homers per season, though he’ll need to tighten his plate discipline to become a quality leadoff man.

Mateo has the raw tools to stick at shortstop, most notably outstanding range and plus arm strength, though his consistency and focus in the field still leave something to be desired. Some scouts believe he’ll wind up at second base or in center field, the latter of which he played for the first time in his career in 2017.

* * *

Kyler Murray, OF

Expected level: Low-A? NFC? | Age 21

2018 stats: Hasn’t yet played pro baseball

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 70 | Arm: 40 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50

Murray’s gains were obvious during his breakout spring as he made better contact, showed better aptitude for recognizing spin and did a better job of controlling the strike zone. He has the plus-plus speed to create havoc on the bases and the bat speed and strength to produce average power. The son of former Texas A&M quarterback and Brewers farmhand Kevin Murray and the nephew of two-time first-rounder and five-year big leaguer Calvin Murray, Kyler still needs to reduce his strikeouts further and is a work in progress defensively. He’s still learning reads and routes but has the quickness to outrun his mistakes and eventually could become at least a solid center fielder. His arm has regressed on the diamond and currently plays below average.

Oakland’s decision to allow Murray to play football in the fall comes with obvious risk, as any injury suffered on the gridiron likely would further delay the start of Murray’s baseball career. If he can stay healthy, Murray, with his tools and the surprising progress he has made on the diamond, could one day provide the A’s with a huge return on their investment.

* * *

James Kaprielian, RHP

Expected level: ??? | Age 25

2018 stats: Missed entire season (and 2017) due to Tommy John surgery

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 50

After working at 88-92 mph in college with a fastball that stood out more for its sink and command than it did for velocity, Kaprielian saw his velocity jump to 93-96 mph while touching 99 upon entering pro ball. He possesses a deep secondary arsenal, including a curveball, slider and changeup that all grade as at least above-average pitches when they’re on. Kaprielian controls and commands his pitches very well, doing a good job of delivering all of them from the same arm slot.

Considered more of a pitchability right-hander with a ceiling of a No. 3 starter when the Yankees drafted him, Kaprielian has shown frontline stuff when healthy. He’s fallen well behind the development curve and will have his workload monitored carefully moving forward, but the overall ingredients are there for Kaprielian to still move quickly once he finally returns to the mound, likely in mid-2018.

* * *

Jameson Hannah, OF

Expected level: High-A | Age 21

2018 stats (A-): 95 PAs, 119 wRC+, 1 HR, 6 SB, 9.5% BB, 25.3% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 45 | Run: 60 | Arm: 40 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50

Athletic college players who can hit are always in demand, and Hannah fits that profile. He recognizes pitches and manages the strike zone well, using his quick left-handed swing to repeatedly barrel the ball. He has the strength for at least 15-homer power and perhaps more and also should provide plenty of doubles. What’s more, Hannah has track record of performing well with wood bats, having overcome a slow start in the Cape Cod League to bat .392 during a season-ending 20-game hitting streak.

Hannah gets plus to plus-plus grades for his speed and was a successful if not especially prolific basestealer in college. He also uses his quickness well in center field, where he gets good jumps and can track down balls from gap to gap. His arm is his lone below-average tool but isn’t a huge handicap in center.

* * *

Vote in the comments below for your favorite of the five by Rec’ing his “Vote: (Player Name)” comment, and post your nomination(s) as well!