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Oakland A’s 2021 Community Prospect List #14: Austin Beck yet to unlock his tools

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The former No. 6 overall draft pick could have really used the 2020 summer

This is even the same photo as his post from last year
Photo by Jane Tyska/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Our 2021 Community Prospect List adds its next member, and one with high draft pedigree in former 1st-round pick Austin Beck. Here’s the current list, including their winning margins (the difference between his % of the vote, and the % of the runner-up):

  1. A.J. Puk, LHP (+42%)
  2. Tyler Soderstrom, C (+16%)
  3. Nick Allen, SS (+26%)
  4. Robert Puason, SS (+29%)
  5. Daulton Jefferies, RHP (+42%)
  6. Logan Davidson, SS (+15%)
  7. James Kaprielian, RHP (+32%)
  8. Luis Barrera, OF (+34%)
  9. Greg Deichmann, OF (+24%)
  10. Grant Holmes, RHP (+3%)
  11. Jeff Criswell, RHP (+10%)
  12. Brayan Buelvas, OF (+19%)
  13. Pedro Pineda, OF (+23%)
  14. Austin Beck, OF (+13%)

The Oakland A’s haven’t had much recent luck at the very top of the draft. From 2016-18 they got premium Top 10 picks during their rebuilding phase, and none have gone as planned.

The first year they chose college lefty A.J. Puk at No. 6 overall, who looked great all the way up until he got hurt for two out of three seasons. The next year they selected high school outfielder Austin Beck at No. 6, and they’re still waiting to see a return on that investment. Then they went with college quarterback Kyler Murray at No. 9, and he decided to play football instead.

As for Beck, nobody doubts his tools, which still receive strong marks for power, speed, arm, and defense. However, after two full pro seasons in the lower-minors, he’s yet to put any of it together on the field. Some injuries have further stalled his progress, and then in 2020 he was the best A’s prospect to not get invited to their alternate site summer camp.

On the bright side, Beck did get included in the fall instructional league, but it was still a lost year for a boom-or-bust prospect who could least afford to lose one. Hopefully he can get back in action in 2021 and finally begin to show off some of his lofty potential.

The voting process is explained below. Please take a moment to read this before participating:

  • 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 for the next ballot.
  • 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.

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The new nominee is Lazaro Armenteros. It’s appropriate that he would take Beck’s spot on the ballot, as the two have seemingly been linked during their pro careers. They arrived as similarly toolsy raw talents with considerable financial investments, and played as teammates for a couple years in the low-minors, but both have seen their prospect stock dip dramatically. For Lazarito it’s an enormous strikeout rate that overshadows some other positive stats he’s managed to put up.

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? | Age 22

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY
2019 stats (A+): 538 PA, 107 wRC+, 17 HR, 13.6% BB, 42.2% Ks, 22 SB

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

In 2019, Armenteros struck out in more than 42 percent of his plate appearances, only partially offset by his high walk rate. When taking that into consideration, it’s a testament to how strong he is that he still managed to hit 17 homers. But he really needs to re-work his swing because his barrel isn’t in the zone long enough for him to make contact to get to that power. He started working on that during instructs and it’s an adjustment, especially with breaking stuff, he’ll have to make if he wants to progress.

Armenteros is a physical specimen who can really run and should continue to be able to steal bases. His defense has improved, but he’s probably limited to left field because of a below-average arm. The good news is he’s still young enough to figure things out, but there will have to be some considerable changes to his swing and approach to make it happen.

* * *

Seth Brown, OF

Expected level: MLB? | Age 28

2020 stats (MLB): 0-for-5, 2 Ks
2019 stats (MLB): 83 PA, 120 wRC+, 0 HR, 8.4% BB, 27.7% Ks
2019 stats (AAA): 500 PA, 126 wRC+, 37 HR, 7.6% BB, 25.4% Ks

Baseball America scouting report (from January 2021):

Brown re-tooled his swing in search of more launch angle prior to 2017 and unlocked considerable power. It has yet to translate to the big leagues in a very small sample size — zero homers in 88 at-bats—but his plus raw power is as good as any in the A’s system. He makes solid contact and has a chance to be an average hitter against righthanders as part of a platoon. Brown has worked hard to improve his outfield defense in the hopes of enhancing his versatility and giving him more avenues to playing time. He’s a fine defender at first base.

* * *

Ka’ai Tom, OF

Expected level: MLB | Age 27

2020 stats (MLB): DID NOT PLAY
2019 stats (AA): 343 PAs, 162 wRC+, 14 HR, 12.5% BB, 21.3% Ks
2019 stats (AAA): 211 PAs, 132 wRC+, 9 HR, 10.0% BB, 25.1% Ks

No current scouting report, so here are some assorted notes from various sources (from my December 2021 post):

“Honestly, Tom should have gotten a chance last year, he did not and I could see him sticking with the A’s easily. He plays all three spots and hits at every stop. He isn’t the best athlete and is way undersized, which has been the knocks but he just kept performing.” ...

“Never in my life have I seen a guy so small hit a ball so hard like him.” ...

“Ka’ai Tom doesn’t necessarily consider himself a power hitter but more of a guy who can spray line drives all over the field. Made an adjustment at the plate with his hands in 2019 that led to a big increase in extra-base hits.” ...

“He’s a fast runner who uses his legs to leg out doubles and triples more than steal bases.” ...

“While he’s experienced at all three outfield spots it is likely that his speed and quickness allow him to play center at the major league level.”

* * *

Jordan Diaz, 3B

Expected level: Low-A | Age 20

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY
2019 stats (A-): 300 PA, 118 wRC+, 9 HR, 6.0% BB, 15.3% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

Diaz has perhaps the best bat-to-ball skills in the organization. He has an advanced feel to hit with outstanding bat-to-ball skills, limiting his strikeouts. He’s more of a gap-to-gap hitter and he’s not a quick-twitch kind of hitter, though there is potential power in there.

While there’s faith Diaz is going to hit, there are more questions about whether he’ll defend. He doesn’t always keep focus there and while his hands and arm work, he needs to improve his footwork to stick at third long term. He can get caught flat-footed and make errors as a result. Some of that can get chalked up to youth, but he’ll need to be more consistent as he moves forward. The power will have to come more for him to really profile at the infield corner, but the A’s feel the bat will keep him going up the ladder.

* * *

Tyler Baum, RHP

Expected level: High-A | Age 23

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY (but was at A’s alternate site camp)
2019 stats (A-): 4.70 ERA, 30⅔ ip, 34 Ks, 7 BB, 4 HR, 3.76 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

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

Baum doesn’t have eye-popping stuff, but he does have a four pitch mix at his disposal. He’ll touch 94 mph with his fastball, throwing it with good armside run. He has two distinct breaking balls thrown from his high-three-quarters arm slot, with his upper-70s curve a bit ahead of his harder, more lateral-breaking low-80s slider. His changeup gives him a fourth at least average pitch, an offspeed offering that has some fade to it.

Baum’s strike-throwing improved during his junior year at North Carolina and it carried over during his pro debut. Though there’s some crossfire in his delivery, the improved command gives him a better chance to start, as a No. 4 type in a rotation, long term, though his fastball-breaking ball would play up should he have to move to the bullpen.

* * *

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!