CEDAR RAPIDS, IA — As an everyday presence in the Low-A Beloit Snappers’ lineup throughout his first full season, Oakland A’s top pick in the 2017 amateur draft Austin Beck is getting a crash course in what it takes to succeed at the professional level.
Not surprisingly, Beck’s 65-game run with the Snappers has been full of peaks and valleys, but the sixth-overall selection last June has endured the test and is currently on a good run.
The North Carolina native is 13-for-39 over his last 10 games, which has upped his 2018 slash line to .295/.336/.368. Beck significantly turned the corner in the last half of Rookie ball last summer and says he’s feeling good now that the temperatures have heated up.
“I’ve been away from friends and family for two months now,” Beck said. “After the draft, it wasn’t really all that long of a time away and not too hard on the body because I was in midseason shape ending up high school.
“Coming into spring training, I was pumped to go and ready to get into my first full season. I didn’t know where I was going and then when I saw I was going to Beloit, I was like ‘dude, that’s going to be cold and I’ll need to get used to it.’ About halfway through now, my body is feeling it but there’s nothing you can’t stretch and keep in a routine to stay healthy.”
Unlike last season when he got in only 41 games after being drafted out of North Davidson High School, Beck has been afforded plenty of repetitions as a Snapper. He’s played in 65 of his team’s 75 games. In 20 games this month, the centerfielder is slashing .355/.393/.434.
“It’s just a matter of ABs,” Beck said. “I didn’t see too many of those last season, and this type of pitching. But in spring training, I got to play up with the Double-A and Triple-A guys and in some of the big-league games, so seeing the pitching definitely got me ready for the season. I’m just now getting into midseason form and midseason shape. My bat is definitely showing it.”
As he found out quickly last summer, Beck would need to change his mindset at the professional level and that’s certainly continued into 2018.
Gone are the days when he could muscle out three home runs, a feat he accomplished down the stretch of his senior season of high school. In fact. Beck only has three home runs in 454 plate appearances as a professional.
“Since day one, it’s been approach and the pitches I’ve swung at,” he said. “In high school, they just threw it up there and I could swing with a metal bat and put anything at. I could get a hit anytime. With wood bats and better pitching, guys throwing 90-plus, it’s different and you’ve got to go up there with an approach from the start.”
Nowadays, Beck is trying to showcase another of the five tools he flashed as one of the top prospects in the draft.
“I try to stay gap to gap and when there are two strikes, I’ll choke up, try to put it in play and use my wheels,” he said. “I’ll still try to hit it hard and put it into gaps. The Midwest League isn’t the easiest to hit bombs in, as All-Stars and a lot of guys have said.
“There are a lot of guys that don’t hit a lot of home runs until they get in the big leagues, once they get a lot of ABs under their belt and actually fine-tune their swing and perfect it. I’m not really worried about it, the (home runs) will come. I’m seeing it well and squaring everything up.”
The only adjustments Beck makes these days with Beloit hitting coach Juan Dilone is how he prepares for the pitchers he’ll face.
“It’s all just the mental part of the game, the pitches we’re swinging at and working on hitting our pitch early in the count,” he said. “Some of these umpires are tough, which all umpires are. You can’t leave it to them. You’ve got to battle and not leave it in their hands.”
Having seen most every MWL Western Division squad on multiple occasions, Beck has also seen pitchers start attacking him in different ways.
“Early in the season, they didn’t really know me, so I was getting a lot of fastballs in, out and middle,” he said. “As the season progressed, I’ll go up there and in three of my four or five at-bats it’s a first-pitch breaking ball. They’re good breaking balls, not ones that are hanging up there and you can hit. You’ve got to take it as it is, they’re going to put you in the hole and you’ve got to battle. That’s what makes hitters good.”
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