From the Minor League Ball mailbag:
The Athletics spent $3,000,000 to sign Cuban outfielder Lazaro Armenteros in 2016. He was promising in rookie ball in ‘17, then ranked ninth on the pre-season Oakland Athletics prospects list with this take:
9) Lazaro Armenteros, OF, Grade B-: Age 18, signed out of Cuba for $3,000,000; solid debut season with .288/.376/.474 line in rookie ball, four homers, 10 steals, 16 walks, 48 strikeouts in 156 at-bats; 60 speed, 50 or 55 raw power, needs polish with swing mechanics but draws positive reviews for bat speed and overall athleticism; glove needs work as well but could be OK in center with more experience; long way off but I like the upside and have a good intuitive feeling on this one. ETA 2021
Armenteros missed a month with injury but had a decent season otherwise in 2018, hitting .277/.374/.401 for Beloit in the Low-A Midwest League, his wRC+ winding up solid at 126 in the pitching-oriented Midwest League. Given his age (19) and background he did well, league observers liking the overall tool set and power/speed combo.
The basic pre-season profile is still valid, including the positive upside take and the good intuitive feeling. That said, he does have to work to do: there’s a lot of swing/miss here with 115 strikeouts in 292 at-bats, with MWL observers noting that his swing mechanics need to get more consistent. His arm is mediocre and he needs to use his speed better on the bases and run better routes in the outfield. Without more polish he could wind up in left field, which would raise the bar offensively.
Overall I’d give him a B-/B at the moment.
The Athletics drafted Beck in the first round in 2017, the sixth-overall pick in the class. He hit poorly in rookie ball last year but his pedigree was enough that he still ranked seventh on the pre-season Oakland list with this comment:
7) Austin Beck, OF, Grade B: Age 19, first round pick in 2017 from high school in North Carolina; hit .211/.293/.349 with two homers, seven steals, 17 walks, 51 strikeouts in 152 at-bats in rookie ball; broad tools stand out with 60 raw power, 60 speed, 60 arm; results did not match reputation in rookie ball due to contact problems and there are concerns about ability to hit for average and get on base at higher levels; high-upside certainly but risk profile seems a bit higher to me than commonly realized, thus a touch of conservatism with the grade. ETA 2022.
Like Armenteros, Beck was sent to Beloit for 2018 and performed reasonably, hitting .296/.335/.383 for a wRC+ of 103, relative production weaker than Lazaro but much better than the 74 mark he posted in his pro debut last summer. Beck is similar to Armenteros with a power/speed profile, although they are dissimilar physically in the sense of body build, size, etc.. Beck also has a much stronger throwing arm and is more polished defensively, a good fit in center with enough arm strength to handle right if needed.
Beck also has some swing/miss issues although they aren’t as bad as Lazaro’s. Austin hit just two homers this season and is still working to tap his raw power, but his swing was reportedly more consistent than it was in rookie ball last year and he did hit 29 doubles. I think more home runs will come in time.
Overall, I’d give Beck a high-ceiling Grade B at the moment, with more possible depending on how much difference there is between his raw power and game power as he moves up.
In general, I am optimistic about both outfielders and it will be quite interesting to see how they adapt to the California League in 2019.
If you have questions for the Mailbag, send them to Johnsickels@sbnation.com