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Oakland A’s 2020 Community Prospect List #11: Austin Beck still figuring out his promising tools

The former 6th overall draft pick is off to a slow start in his career.

Photo by Jane Tyska/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Our 2020 Community Prospect List adds its 11th member, in the form of a once-premium draft pick. 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 (+84%)
  2. A.J. Puk, LHP (+1%)
  3. Sean Murphy, C (+95%)
  4. Daulton Jefferies, RHP (+10%)
  5. Nick Allen, SS (+1%)
  6. James Kaprielian, RHP (+2%)
  7. Robert Puason, SS (+32%)
  8. Sheldon Neuse, IF (+26%)
  9. Jorge Mateo, SS (+5%)
  10. Jonah Heim, C (+2%)
  11. Austin Beck, OF (+9%)

Last time we talked about Jonah Heim, who was a nondescript sleeper with an unremarkable draft pedigree but played his way up the prospect radar. Austin Beck is currently authoring the opposite story.

Beck was the definition of a premium draft pick, as the A’s selected him No. 6 overall in 2017. He was a high schooler with dynamic raw tools, giving his future a towering ceiling. That potential placed him in the Top 10 of our last two CPLs.

However, teenage prospects usually take a long time to develop, and that’s been especially true for Beck. He’s now played a full season in each of Single-A and High-A, but he hasn’t hit much and is yet to show any of his above-average power. In 2019 his strikeouts skyrocketed to an untenable level, more than one-third of his plate appearances.

There’s still plenty of good news. He earns high marks for his speed, fielding, and arm, and defensively he could stick in CF, so his bat doesn’t have to completely carry him on its own. And there’s still realistic hope for his offensive game to come around, as evaluators continue to rave about his bat speed. What’s more, some nagging injuries have gotten in the way of his development, which might help explain some of his struggles so far.

But the bottom line for now is the number 20, which was his age last season. That’s young for High-A, so being merely league-average (95 wRC+) within that context is slightly more impressive than it looks at first glance. This season he’ll be 21, which means that if he’d gone to college he’d be entering his junior year and would only just now be getting drafted this-coming summer.

In other words, patience is in order. If Beck puts things together this year and breaks out, then we can call a mulligan on all of 2018-19, and he’ll still be a step ahead of the 2020 college draft class. His lackluster career to date has dropped him out of our Top 10 even despite his enormous draft pedigree, but the sky is still the limit and he has the ability to quickly leap back up the rankings.

Here is the voting 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 Lazaro Armenteros. The A’s spent relatively big to land him in international free agency, but so far he’s been a mixed bag. He has shown flashes of production in power, speed, and on-base ability, but he also struck out at an absurd rate last year in High-A. He was young for the level, though, and like Beck he’s now the age of a 2020 college draft pick, so he’s got plenty of time to refine his skills.

Hitter rates (poor/avg/great):

  • wRC+ (75/100/135)
  • BB% (5.0%/8.5%/12.0%)
  • K% (30%/22%/14%)

Nominees on the current ballot:

Lazaro Armenteros, OF

Expected level: High-A? Double-A? | Age 21

2019 stats (A+): 538 PA, 107 wRC+, 17 HR, 13.6% BB, 42.2% Ks, 22 SB

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report (mid-2019):

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

Armenteros has the chance to have four at-least average tools at the Major League level. He has plus bat speed that makes it easy to project the ability to hit for average with potentially plus power down the road. He’s not afraid to see pitches and draw walks, though he needs to continue to refine his overall approach and pitch recognition in order to cut down his strikeout rate, which was 33.8 percent in 2018.

While he does have excellent speed, he is expected to slow down some as he matures. He’s largely played left field, likely his long-term home given his fringy arm strength. That puts pressure on him to be a corner outfield type bat, but he has the potential to easily fit that profile.

* * *

Logan Davidson, SS

Expected level: High-A | Age 22

2019 stats (A-): 238 PAs, 112 wRC+, 4 HR, 13.0% BB, 23.1% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report (mid-2019):

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

A switch-hitter, Davidson has had some timing issues at times at the plate and a swing that can get long, leading to strikeouts. His strength and leverage do generate plus raw power and there should be more in-game pop as he fills out his lanky 6-foot-3 frame. He runs well, producing plus run times occasionally, and can use his speed to steal bases and cover ground at shortstop. While he’s a little tall for the position, his athleticism and strong arm should allow him to stay there long-term, and that’s where he played exclusively during his pro debut in the short-season New York-Penn League.

If scouts had been convinced that Davidson was going to hit with wood, he probably would have been the first college shortstop taken in June’s first round. His athleticism and offensive potential still made him the fifth one taken and if he can figure things out with his swing, he could be a dynamic up-the-middle player.

* * *

Luis Barrera, OF

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 24

2019 stats (AA): 240 PAs, 139 wRC+, 4 HR, 5.0% BB, 20.0% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report (mid-2019):

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 35 | Run: 65 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45

Perhaps the most improved player in the organization, Barrera came into his own in 2018 in terms of his approach and consistency in his at-bats. With a line-drive, slashing style, Barrera is showing he has the ability to hit for average with excellent bat control, a decrease in his strikeout rate and an increased willingness to draw walks. He won’t be a home run hitter because of his flat bat path, but there could be a bit more pop to unlock at some point. Aggressive with good instincts, Barrera uses his speed well to steal bases. He also uses it to play all three outfield positions and his defensive play has improved nearly as much as his bat has.

Barrera does have the tools to play center field regularly. If his step forward offensively is for real, he could shed the fourth outfielder profile and become a regular in the big leagues.

* * *

Greg Deichmann, OF

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 25

2019 stats (AA): 340 PAs, 90 wRC+, 11 HR, 10.0% BB, 30.3% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report (mid-2019):

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

Even when Diechmann was on the field in 2018, he wasn’t fully healthy as he tried to play through the issue. Initially misdiagnosed as tendinitis, it turned out to be an injury near his hamate and sapped him of his best tool when he was able to play. The A’s liked what they saw in terms of his power potential in his first summer and at instructs that fall, and they are hoping to have that player back again in 2019. His approach has helped him get to his power consistently and while he will strike out, he’ll also draw walks.

His strong arm and power profile are good fits in right field, his likely long-term home, and he should be an average defender there. The first order of business for the left-handed hitter is to get a full season of reps in 2019.

* * *

Grant Holmes, RHP

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 24

2019 stats (AA): 3.31 ERA, 81⅔ ip, 76 Ks, 27 BB, 9 HR, 4.20 FIP
2019 stats (AAA): 1.93 ERA, 4⅔ ip, 5 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HR, 5.08 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report (mid-2019):

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Cutter: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45

The A’s are keeping their collective fingers crossed that he’s put the shoulder ailment behind him and all signs are pointing in the right direction. He’s worked very hard to be ready to go and get his stuff back to where it was. He throws his heavy 93-94 mph fastball with excellent movement, leading to high GO/AO rates every year. He misses bats with his plus breaking ball, a hard power curve with depth, and he can mix in an average changeup. Holmes would sometimes throw a four-seamer with cutting action, so he just went with it and has developed an above-average cutter, that has late cut and comes in hard at 90-91 mph. He’s never been a big command guy and he will have to throw more strikes to stay in a rotation.

More than anything, Holmes needs to show he can answer the bell every fifth day and see how he responds. Then the A’s will really be able to get a read on if he can start long-term or if he’s best suited for relief work.

* * *

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!