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2017 Phillies Draft Preview: Austin Beck, OF

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Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals - Game Two Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Austin Beck is a 6’1" 190 lbs Right Handed hitting Center Fielder from Arcadia, North Carolina with a commitment to UNC. He’s possibly a 5-tool star, but it’s hard to tell since an ACL injury last spring kept him off the summer showcase circuit. So all those pretty Prospect Pipeline, Baseball America and Fangraphs videos I post all the time from various home run derbys, practices and drills that show swings from various angles, are a bit more limited for Beck. There’s no wood bat video of him, as there is for other top preps who hit with wood bats in some of those showcases. There’s no video of him hitting against, Pratto, Danner, Greene or any other top of the draft Pitchers like many of the other prospects because of him missing the summer circuit. There are two things that happened because of this. 1. Beck fell completely off of the Baseball America Top 100 list for this year’s draft. Essentially labelling him more like a 4-5th round pick, at best. 2. Beck has since rocketed up draft boards (top 10 area on most now), but with, by far, the least data available of anyone in the top 2 rounds. This gives him a higher delta than his peers in this draft. He’s a possible steal because of the lack of times scouts have seen him compared to, say Jo Adell, but he’s also clearly risky because of the smaller data pool.

So, let’s talk about the tools that’s jumped over something like 90 other prospects the last 4 months. Beck plays Center Field and as such you’d expect a Plus runner to allow for maximum range. Well, ACL injury be damned, he’s still that. He was Grade 70 by many reports pre-injury and his times this year all come up in the Grade 60 range, with a few right around 70 grade. He’s not as fast out of the batter’s box as Roman Quinn, but he’s not by any means slow either. That said his play in the field on Defense will play up more like his 70 grade times.

His Defense in Center should be above-average and his arm is good enough for Right (important since there seems to be a legit Center Fielder at every level of the system (Doobie, Quinn, Tocci, etc.). His bat might also be good enough to profile in Right, but I shouldn’t get ahead of myself.

On to the bat, which I’ve seen some really, really breathless reports about. I’ve seen a few reports noting his bat speed as Grade 80 and absolute top of the scale. That bat speed allows for a projection of his power to Grade 70. Of course, grade 70 power is useless if you have a Grade 30 hit tool, but Beck also shows a pretty good eye for a High Schooler and I’ve seen hit tool projections range from 50 to 70, though most seem to settle in around 50-55. Personally I think it could project higher, but he’s facing subpar competition and without having lit up top competition on the showcase circuit I think writers are, understandably, unwilling to project that strongly without seeing him handle better breaking balls and speed.

The reason I think he could project higher is the mechanics of his swing, along with the bat speed that will allow him to wait a fraction of a second longer than most to pick up spin. This first clip is from Baseball America about 2 months ago (the one blessing of Beck’s injury, for me at least, is that there are way more 2017 videos of him than anyone else I’ve profiled). In it Beck goes 3 for 4 with a double to the Right - Centerfield gap and 2 Homers. His one out is a Strike out that pretty clearly should have been a Walk (Beck just turned and walk to the dugout, no arguing with the ump, though it probably would have been justified). This is all shot from behind, a great angle to just Pitchers from, but so-so to judge hitters. My only complaint is all the histrionics with the bat before he swings, but that’s part of his load and not something I’d get rid of entirely, but it would be nice to quiet it down some. He keeps good balance, has one of the shortest paths you’ll see, gets good leverage and his power looks really easy.

I’m including this one because it’s the most recent I found. There’s a Homer and a K in there (both legit, no-doubters) with a long fly out mixed in. Angles a bit better, though more distant. Also, if you speak Spanish, you may get an additional scouting report, I have no idea. I took German, which was stupid. My friend’s that took French could flirt with girls using it, my friends that took Spanish can get good practical use from it. Taking German just makes you sound foreign and angry, as it’s a bit hard to sound cheery in broken German. Anyway, I have severely digressed here. After noting Beck’s 40 Grade goatee, I moved on to his hitting. He keeps his weight back nicely until he brings his weight through his hips. He’s got a small leg kick and stride, stays balanced and keeps his head level throughout the swing.

This last video is also Baseball America. It’s from late February. I like the angle better here than the first one and the distance of the clip better than the second one. Ignore the part with Beck Pitching at the end. He has a good accurate arm from the OF, but he’s not really a prospect as a Pitcher (though it is nice to find something that isn’t a plus tool, it restores balance to the world). This video mostly confirms what the other 2 showed: strong tools, a short, lightning fast swing and and enough uppercut to create loft and really crush baseballs when he connects.

This draft is shaping up really weirdly. My long time favorite player might be making himself a Round 2 option (though Tanner Houck has picked up his velocity again in recent starts and has shown better control, so he may play himself back into the Top 10). My favorite hitter (a personal fave since 2014) JJ Schwarz may have played himself into a 5th round pick and my new favorite player started the year on the fringes of the radar. I’ve resisted typing the comp I’ve seen most often for Beck and I’m going to continue to do so. What I will say is that 2 writers noted it was a crazy sounding, probably unfair comp, but scouts seemed to think it was reasonable. So imagine the craziest comp you can and you’re pretty much spot on. Beck is a potentially special player and if you have a chance for a franchise altering player you take it, but that’s the risk here. There’s a decent chance Beck’s long gone by 8 and if he isn’t, it’s possible it could be due to a rumored strong commitment to attend UNC. Of course, it could also just be due to concerns about quality of opponents and lack of wood bat scouting on him.