Off days in the Midwest League are often spent far away from a baseball field, but for Austin Beck — the Oakland A’s first round pick in the 2017 draft — a break was just what he needed to make some changes in the batter’s box in time for the season’s stretch run.
Instead of taking in 18 holes at a nearby golf course, the Beloit Snappers’ outfielder spent it on a baseball diamond. The alterations have paid off handsomely, as he has posted a .333/.370/.462 slash line in 23 games this month.
“My approach is so much better and the pitches I’m swinging at,” said Beck, the sixth-overall selection in the 2017 draft. “I went through July and was getting myself out with so many pitches and wasn’t even close.
“Some sliders that started knee-high and broke off the table that weren’t strikes … most of my July was swinging at dumb crap. I went through an off-day and just worked on low pitches and my approach, trying to swing at my pitch and my pitch only. Then when I got to two strikes, I’m battling.”
The Snappers’ center fielder has certainly fought his way through a rollercoaster first full professional season. Entering Sunday’s tilt in Peoria, Beck has played in 115 Midwest League games and compiled a season slash line of .291/.332/.381 in 497 plate appearances.
One of the biggest achievements for the 19-year-old has been his ability to adjust daily versus older competition.
“I’ve got close to 500 at-bats this year, so I know the pitchers and have seen them a few times,” Beck said. “I had seen the pitches before, but it was a matter of laying off of them. I saw they were sliders or curveballs down, but would just swing at them. I’ve got so many at-bats under my belt now. It’s the same pitchers I’ve seen all year and know their tendencies.”
In a season full of curveballs, Beloit manager Webster Garrison threw Beck one during the team’s current road trip…batting him lead-off. The North Carolina native joked that it was his first time hitting at the top of an order since he was 12.
Filling in for fellow high 2017 draft pick Nick Allen in the one-hole is just one of several highlights during a season which Beck would consider a success. However, he’s far from wanting to rest on his laurels.
Well known for his amateur long ball hitting exploits, including a three-homer effort in his last high school game, Beck said he’d like to get back to being that style of player. He has just two homers this season and a total of four in 156 games and 671 plate appearances as a professional.
“I’m happy with myself,” he said. “I had some goals I accomplished, but there’s always more stuff to work on. This offseason, I’ll be working (with former big-leaguer Chad Tracy) on some launch angle stuff to get my power numbers up next season. I wasn’t really happy with the power numbers. I hit too many balls on the ground. Yeah, I’m fast, but I hit with too much power to not hit the ball in the air and hit bombs. Either way, I’m really happy with how I’ve done average-wise and on-base percentage.”
But in the meantime, there’s a postseason berth at stake for the Snappers. Those odds got a little longer on Sunday after a 10-2 loss, which dropped Beloit three games in back of Peoria for the second wild card spot.
“We’re in the playoff push right now, so it would be nice to make the playoffs and fight for a league championship,” Beck said. “I just want to keep hitting the ball well and seeing it well.”
Once Beloit’s season concludes, Beck said he won’t be headed to the A’s instructional league but instead home to North Carolina. He hopes the next step in his career is an assignment to High-A Stockton in a hitter-friendly California League.
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