In early March I was talking on the phone with an employee of a major league team, gathering the latest information on his farm system. We were talking about what he saw in instructional league when my contact suddenly changed the subject to the 2017 draft, or rather, to one particular player from the 2017 draft.
“Hey, have you ever heard of Austin Beck? This guy is going to be a monster. A monster. There’s your tip for the day. Austin Beck.”
Other writers and analysts are getting similar tips: over the last few weeks, Beck has shot to the top of draft charts. Let’s take a look.
Austin Beck is a high school outfielder from Arcadia, North Carolina. He’s been known to scouts for some time, having attended showcase events and demonstrating speed, power potential, and a “prototypical center field build and profile” according to Perfect Game. He also has a commitment to the University of North Carolina, automatically leading to a signability concern.
More importantly, he suffered a leg injury last spring, leading to ACL surgery and an enforced absence from baseball last summer and fall, costing him a chance to demonstrate his abilities against his top peers in summer ball. He came into the 2017 high school season as a “worth keeping an eye on” guy, but with the signability issue and the long absence from the playing field keeping him off early versions of 2017 draft prospect lists.
That’s changed now. Healthy again and back on the field, Beck is having an outstanding spring, leading to Mike Trout comparisons due to his combination of tools and skills.
Beck is listed at 6-1, 190, a right-handed hitter and thrower born November 21st, 1998.
Do you want speed? He has that, reportedly being timed at 4.1 down the line. Arm strength? He has that, a strong and accurate right field cannon.
The bat? Reports are glowing.
The extremely respected David Rawnsley at Perfect Game is not a person who falls victim to hype, yet he had this to say about Beck:
“. . .the most impressive thing about Beck when I saw him was his bat and offensive profile. His hitting approach is outstanding, with a balanced set up and directional stride at the plate, ideal hand position with a calm and relaxed load and as good of lower half torque and whip as this scout has seen in a long time. The raw bat speed is extreme, absolute highest level. . .Beck hits to all fields due to his balance and ability to wait on the ball and very consistently squares the ball up.”
Beck isn’t showing many weaknesses this spring.
The main uncertainty revolves around competition: he isn’t facing the best available right now during the high school regular season, and the 2016 injury cost him the opportunity to show what he could do against his top peers last summer. That’s not his fault, but it is an important factor when projecting his future. Yet it isn’t stopping the hype.
The popular comparison in the scouting community for North Carolina's fast-rising outfielder Austin Beck has been Mike Trout, which this scout has heard three different times in the last few weeks. It seemed a bit presumptuous to compare an 18-year old who has a short a resume as Beck to the game's best player, to be honest, but after seeing Beck play in person in late March this scout began to understand where those scouts were coming from.
Beck’s spring surge certainly pushes him to the pinnacle of the draft, likely to the top five if current trends hold. It is extremely unlikely he’ll get to college now and Beck could very well challenge Hunter Greene and Brendan McKay for the first overall slot.
It is absolutely unfair to compare a high school kid like Beck to Mike Trout, the greatest player of his generation. That said, the fact that such comparisons are not automatically rejected by sober, reliable, experienced, objective, and knowledgeable observers like Rawnsley is telling.
This kid is special.
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Baseball America video