The Oakland Athletics concluded the first day of the three-day 2017 MLB Draft with three new position players in the organization: prep outfielder Austin Beck, University of South Florida infielder Kevin Merrell and LSU outfielder Greg Deichmann. After the A’s finished their first day selections, longtime Oakland A’s Scouting Director Eric Kubota discussed why the organization zeroed in on Beck, Merrell and Deichmann.
On Austin Beck
Kubota raved about Beck’s offensive skills and upside. He said that the A’s were drawn to Beck’s combination of offensive skills and raw athleticism.
“He’s got tremendous bat speed and upside with the bat. We felt the bat ability was unique this draft and maybe unique for many drafts,” Kubota said. “You don’t see that kind of bat speed that often. He’s athletic.”
Kubota said the A’s identified Beck early on in the process as a talent they would monitor closely. The A’s brought Beck in for a private workout at the Coliseum last week, and Kubota said that although the organization knew a lot about Beck prior to the workout, Beck’s time at the Coliseum helped to solidify his spot on the A’s draft board.
“It reinforced what we felt about him in our evaluations. It was nice to see him perform on a big league field, so you were able to put his performance into a little bit different context than a high school field,” Kubota said. “It certainly helped. It wasn’t the overriding factor, but it certainly helped.”
Beck left an impression after taking BP at the Coliseum, however.
“It was as impressive a high school workout that I have seen in our stadium since I have been in our scouting department here,” Kubota said. “He hit in our stadium like big leaguers hit in our stadium.”
Kubota indicated that the A’s were impressed not only with the power display Beck put on during batting practice, but also his demeanor when interacting with the A’s front office and scouting staff.
“There was a lot of dead time and he handled himself extremely well and that certainly adds to the comfort factor,” Kubota said. “You get to know the kid a little bit better. It’s only one day, but everything helps a little bit.”
The A’s rated Beck’s speed a 6 on the 2-8 scouting scale, according to Kubota. The A’s didn’t have Beck run a 60-yard dash, but they had reports that he ran a 6.5 60 in another workout. Kubota believes Beck has the tools to remain in centerfield longterm.
“We think there is every chance that he will continue to be able to play centerfield as he advances through the minor leagues,” Kubota said. “He is an above-average runner and we think he is instinctive.”
Beck’s speed hasn’t diminished despite tearing his ACL and meniscus last May. Beck played his senior season without major restrictions, but the A’s did have him meet with Dr. William Workman, one of their team orthopedists, and their training staff while he was in Oakland.
“Them being able to examine him certainly increased our confidence in the health of the knee,” Kubota said.
Kubota indicated that the A’s believe Beck is a unique talent.
“We just had him evaluated very highly. We loved the ability, loved the upside to this player,” Kubota said. “We think it is a talent with the bat that doesn’t come around very often. This is a talent that we identified really early and scouted a lot. He was a guy that we liked all through this spring.”
On Kevin Merrell
With their second pick (#33 overall), the A’s selected Merrell, a University of South Florida infielder with plus speed and above-average contact skills. Merrell hit .384/.464/.569 as a junior for the Bulls and posted a .429 OBP over his three seasons at USF. He also stole 56 bases for South Florida over those three seasons.
Kubota says that Merrell’s athleticism was a big draw for Oakland.
“He’s got unique athletic ability,” Kubota said. “His speed tool is probably equal to anybody in this draft and he’s played shortstop and other infield positions and we think that the athletic ability may lend itself to being able to play in the outfield, as well.”
Although Merrell has moved around the field a bit during his collegiate career, the A’s believe he has a chance to stick at short.
“We actually think that he has a chance to play shortstop full-time, but that [versatility] certainly helps,” Kubota said.
Kubota says Merrell profiles as a top-of-the-order hitter.
“[He’s a v]ery good contact hitter. If you look at his numbers in his career, that backs that up,” Kubota said. “We do think he is advanced as a hitter and we think that he has an outstanding speed tool. Those two things work well together.”
Merrell hit just eight homeruns in 153 games in college, but seven of them came this season. Kubota says Merrell has some pop in his bat, although power isn’t going to be what defines Merrell as a hitter.
“We think [the power] is developing. We don’t think it is going to be a major part of his game, but we do think he will hit some homeruns and he is strong enough to drive the ball in the gaps,” Kubota said. “It’s not a strength issue. It’s the style of hitter that he is.”
On Greg Deichmann
The A’s final pick on day one was Deichmann, an LSU outfielder who was selected in the 26th round of the draft last season by the Twins as a draft-eligible sophomore. Deichmann made significant improvements from 2016 to 2017, going from a .288/.346/.513 line as a sophomore to .322/.431/.614 this year. Deichmann hit 19 homeruns for the Tigers and was one of the top power hitters in Division I this year.
Kubota says the A’s noticed Deichmann beginning to tap into his full potential at the end of last season.
“We thought he started to come on at the end of last year and [his success this season] was just a natural progression from where he was,” Kubota said.
Although Deichmann has played some infield in the past, Kubota profiles Deichmann as a corner outfielder.
“We think he’s definitely a corner outfielder. We think he has the athletic ability to play the corner of the outfield,” Kubota said. “His throwing arm is average to plus.”
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