The theme of the questions and comments in regards to the draft for the last few weeks has been a mystery high school bat from North Carolina named Austin Beck. Beck has gone from a guy not on most peoples radar at the start of the spring to a guy that is heavily in the mix for a Top 5 pick.
Disclaimer: I am comfortable with my opinion on Beck from the video I’ve seen as well as game reports from 2017 to help me confirm what I was thinking. That said I've seen less recent film on him than most other top of the draft candidates as his injury last year took away a chance to get some of the stuff you can find on a similar caliber prep talent like a Hunter Greene or Royce Lewis. My general opinion on Beck is fairly set, but new information/video on him leaves me more open to changing my opinion on him(positively or negatively) than a Greene or Lewis.
Who Is Austin Beck?
Austin Beck is an outfielder from North Davidson High School in Arcadia, North Carolina who is committed to the University of North Carolina. Beck, who will be 18.5 years old at the time of the 2017 draft, is a right handed hitting and throwing center fielder listed at 6’1” and 190 pounds according to his profile on Perfect Game.
The most talked about fact with Beck is the fact that he tore his ACL last year and missed the very important summer circuit in the summer heading into his senior year. That injury had him outside of most Top 100 draft prospect lists heading into the spring as he missed time, as well as a chance to prove himself against high level competition. There were also some concerns because an ACL tear isn’t a good thing for a center fielder whose speed is a part of his game.
Beck has since completely recovered from his knee injury to take the field at 100% this spring. A healthy Beck has really opened the eyes of everyone- from fans, to media, to big league teams themselves. He has become the biggest riser of this year’s draft to this point and has become a guy that may or may not even be there for the Braves to draft with the fifth overall pick.
One thing especially important to keep in mind with Beck is that he missed last summer. Other high profile prep bats like Royce Lewis, Jo Adell, Drew Waters, and Alejandro Toral didn’t. Those guys had a chance to compete against each other and other elite level talents. Their performance against top competition is something we know about, in addition to having a better read on their tools. Beck doesn’t have that, and while that doesn’t change what he is as a player, teams don’t have that confirmation they would like creating a certain level of uncertainty to him.
The first thing you want to talk about with Beck is his power. His power is special, true plus power which comes easily to him. His raw power can project to a future 70 grade without having to project too much into it. That much was never in question with him, but that’s not the only area he looks promising with the bat.
Beck’s bat speed is plus-plus, part of why he’s got that big, easy power, and he is able to combine that along with bat speed with a great swing to be a guy expected to hit for average as well as power. The above video from Prospect Pipeline’s YouTube channel gives you a good look at his quick, short swing which has good plate coverage to it and produces leverage. It’s the kind of swing that you’d like to teach if you were a coach.
The Tweet above is a look at his power, while the below Tweet lets you get a good look at his in-game swing rather than just the batting practice video at the top of this section.
Beck is a five tool guy, but the bat is a clear headlining skill. That swing and the bat speed could also help his already impressive raw power play up even more.
Beck was a guy seen as a 70 grade runner pre-injury. ACL injuries are tricky, so I wanted to re-verify that the speed is still there this spring. I was able to find some of his times from the batters box to first base from scouts this spring and it appears that the speed is still a real asset. The times do back up plus speed, especially when you take into account that he’s right handed and he’s slightly slow getting out of the batters box- not completely uncommon for a guy who will hit with his power.
The part of his game I’ve spent the least amount of time on this spring is his defense. That’s a compliment because Beck is a guy who is going to be a quality defender in center with a plus throwing arm. So while he may not be Ender Inciarte, there aren’t any significant holes with Beck’s defense in center either.
Austin Beck is a guy who has been compared by some to Mike Trout- Mike Trout at the time of his draft instead of Mike Trout the best player in the world. It’s a comp that makes some sense as they’re both prep center fielders with a good build to their upper bodies, a very good power and speed combo, and the ability to hit for average. I don’t want to buy into that though, as I think Trout was an 80 runner at the time and Beck wasn’t that even before his injury. I also think that Beck’s power now is a grade better than what Trout’s was at a similar point in his career.
Beck is a true five tool guy- one whom I can see becoming a .280 hitter with 25-30 homers, and the potential to steal his share of bases- especially earlier in his career with the rest of his career depending on just how much speed he ends up losing as he continues bulking up. Those numbers would be fairly similar to what you could expect from Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon for example.
In my personal rankings I would have him in my Top 5. He’s behind Hunter Greene’s special talent for sure to me. I would also put him behind similarly high upside prep bat Royce Lewis, partly because I’m a little more comfortable with Lewis’ track record. In that next spot right now, the 3rd and 4th spots on the board, is where I would put a toss up between Beck and University of North Carolina RHP JB Bukauskas. I realize I’ve left Louisville’s Brendan McKay off, but that’s because I prefer the upside of the four guys mentioned to a guy with less ceiling but a high floor as either a pitcher or hitter.
Again with less on Beck than the other guys in this range, his position is a bit more tentative than the rest, and having less on Beck than what is ideal there aren’t the holes that we’ve been able to pick out with the other top prep players. However Beck’s upside is absolutely real and everything I’ve come across relating to him this spring makes me comfortable with the possibility that the Braves select him with their top pick.