Last week, the Oakland Athletics selected 41 players in the 2017 MLB Draft. I spoke with four of the A’s area scouts to get their thoughts on the players they are bringing into the A’s organization.
Area scout Neil Avent
(Areas: North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia)
Selections: Austin Beck (1st round), Parker Dunshee (7th round), Josh Reagan (15th round), Ben Spitznagel (27th round), Pat Krall (28th round)
On when he started scouting Austin Beck, OF, North Davidson HS:
“[North Davidson HS] had a young man that ended up at NC State that was somebody that was scouted that was a year ahead of him, so I had the opportunity to see him last spring a couple of times. Unfortunately, he got hurt the first game of the playoffs in pre-game and blew his knee out. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t able to play in the summer circuit. I saw him last spring and also as a 10th grader when he had played on one of the teams I was coaching in the Border Battle that we had going in the fall with an underclass group. I have seen him and knew who he was for the past couple of years, but I hadn’t seen a lot of him until this spring in terms of really bearing down on him.
But he was a kid that I knew had an awful lot of tools and did certain things really well. I think that as spring started, he became more and more popular with everyone. If you went one time and watched the batting practice indoor or outdoor, it didn’t matter, if you saw him hit, you wanted to come back. Kudos to him. He did a fantastic job getting himself back into shape. You are talking about less than a year getting back [from the knee injury] and still being able to run well because that’s obviously one of the tools that he has. He does run well. To be able to come back from that type of injury is remarkable in and of itself and to still have that element of speed.”
On Beck’s personality and his tools:
“He’s an interesting young man. He’s a very competitive kid. Loves to play the game. Is one of those guys who I think, given a chance to get out and get professional instruction and continue to get better, he’s going to be a very successful kid. The toolset is very good. He has the bat speed and the power and he can throw and he can defend. He’s a talented young man, no doubt.”
On comparing Beck to Beck’s favorite player Andrew McCutchen:
“When you start comparing anyone to guys like McCutchen, that’s tough. A lot of folks threw Mike Trout out there [as a comp for Beck]. There’s only one Mike Trout and there’s only one Andrew McCutchen. Beck does a lot of things well. If you ask him what are the things he does well, one of the things he points out is – and I think it is one of his better attributes – is the fact that he gets good jumps and he defends in the outfield. That’s one of the things he takes great pride in – his defense and his ability to track balls down in the outfield. That’s probably why he looks up to someone like Cutch as a role model as someone to pattern his game after. McCutchen, coming out of high school, did some things really well. I hate to say that there are comparisons – that’s kind of hard to say that you can throw the same kind of comp on someone – but if he is patterning his game after that particular guy, he’s going down the right track.
Those are good people to try to pattern your game after. I think that’s a fair assessment. He takes pride not just in the bat part. He knows that he has to be a well-rounded player.”
On Beck’s defensive ability:
“He’s played some corner outfield. He’s played centerfield. He played corner before and center this year. My opinion is that he has the ability to stay in centerfield for some length of time. Long-term, I believe that he has the ability to stay in centerfield. His defensive ability will allow him to do that. His nose for the ball and ball-hawking type skills will allow him to stay in center for some period of time. The arm is what throws some people off, but there are centerfielders who have plenty of arm strength, too. He is an above-average arm strength guy. He has the ability to play anywhere in the outfield, but I think he will stick in centerfield.”
On how Beck compares to other standout high school prospects Avent has scouted or coached over his 25 year career:
“He’s one of the more talented kids that I have seen as a scout and a coach. I have been in this area for basically just over 25 years as a coach or a scout. Very talented. Matches up really well with the Josh Hamiltons and the Wil Myerses. Those kinds of kids. From a tools standpoint, compares very favorably even going back to the Trot Nixons. We’ve had some really good players come out of this region. Wil being the most recent.
I think with the types of things that he can do and the collective toolset, Austin has a lot of that Josh Hamilton type, as good as what I saw from him. Josh had power, he could really run and he could throw. Whenever we grade out the bat, that’s the hardest thing for us to determine is whether they are going to hit. You can see the power. That’s easy. But Hamilton could run, he could throw, he had power and the ball sounded different coming off of his bat. A lot of that is very similar with Beck. What you see in terms of measurable tools, he compares favorably. He’s as talented in that category as what Josh was.”
On Parker Dunshee, RHP, Wake Forest:
“I have seen Parker quite a bit and I have a very good relationship with him, as well. As a freshman and as a sophomore, he pitched in a number of different roles [for Wake Forest], mostly out of the pen. Then the last two years, he pitched mostly out of a starting role. Once he went into that mode as a starter, he has been very consistent. He’s an outstanding athlete that is a strike-thrower and has a competitive chip on his shoulder. It’s a fastball-sinker-slider kind of mix with a change-up. He has excellent feel to pitch. He is around the ‘zone and he’s going to give you usually a very consistent performance every time out. He was their Friday starter the past couple of years and has done very well in that role the past couple of years. I would expect that he will be very solid at the next level. He’s a very solid makeup young man. Very smart, athletic pitcher.
Most of the guys who come out are usually starters when we get them and then they find their way when we get them out. He has a starter type mix. Whether he ends up as a starter, or he could end up as a middle reliever that will eat innings. A bridge type guy. A 6th, 7th, inning guy who is capable of flipping an order. He has enough of an arsenal to be a solid starter.”
On Josh Reagan, LHP, South Carolina:
“Reagan is an interesting case. He started some. He was on the same high school team as Nick Ciuffo, who was a first-round pick of the Rays a few years back. I’ve seen him quite a bit as a high schooler as well that year. He went to South Carolina, pitched a little bit as a freshman and then was used as a starter for his sophomore year. Then the last two years, he has probably been their most consistent bullpen guy in terms of a stop-gap, tourniquet guy. A guy that comes in in the 7th that stops the bleeding or holds the lead. If you go back and look at his numbers and the number of appearances he had, I would shudder to look. He pitched a lot for them. We called him Everyday Josh. We’d also call him the Governor because of his last name Reagan. You’d see someone warming up and you’d look and say, ‘it looks like the Governor warming up.’ He threw an awful lot. He threw kind of like how we used [Ryan] Dull or Danny Otero before that. He’s the kind of guy who, if you are up by a run in the sixth, you bring that guy in and he holds you until [closer] Tyler Johnson. And that’s what they’d probably try to do.
He’s a reliable lefty. Mid- to upper-80s guy with a good breaking ball and a good change-up. They use him about how NC State used to use Will Gilbert before we got him in the draft. Another performer in a very good league who has put up good numbers over the past two years in that particular role. Very excited for him. He’s a guy that I think will be a reliever, but if he had to start, he could certainly do it but his stuff will probably play up as a reliever. He’s pitched in that role the past two years.”
On Ben Spitznagel, OF/2B, UNC-Greensboro:
“Ben is an interesting kid. He has been at Greensboro for two years. He was NAIA, then he went to a JC and then he went to Greensboro. He’s a very cerebral hitter. Having the opportunity to see him hit over the course of the last couple of years, he has been very consistent at the plate. I think he has excellent zone judgment. His splits are good. This kid hits lefties as well as he hits righties. He has feel for the barrel and good zone awareness. I believe this young man will hit.
He’s a versatile kid. He’s played second base. He’s played outfield. He played right field for them and he is probably a better profile in center. He’s a plus runner and he will profile better in center but he has that versatility to play a number of different positions, but the bat is the part that you notice. Walks over strikeouts. He controls the zone and he has been one of the catalysts on their team the past couple of years. He’s been able to be very solid performer for two seasons. I really like him. He’s going to be one of those guys who surprises. He won’t surprise me, but I hope he’s one of those guys who puts up some numbers. It wouldn’t surprise me if he did real well with the bat.”
On Pat Krall, LHP, Clemson:
“Pat is a big kid. Pat pitched as a reliever a bit when he transferred in from Temple and then he kind of took over a spot when they needed a starter about midyear. He had to go into that role and he basically pitched awfully well. He was very consistent and gave them a chance to win every time he took the mound. He was a real shot in the arm in the starting rotation over the weekend. He was a later draft last year, but he had good numbers. This year, he was their Sunday guy. He was good.
You are talking about a big left-handed kid who has some funk to his delivery. He has some deception. He knows how to pitch with what he has. His arsenal is not an overpowering arsenal, but he knows how to get outs with the pitches that he has. It’s a fastball-change-up-breaking ball mix. Knows how to use the change-up effectively. Another strike-thrower. He’s around the plate. Knows where his bread is buttered, so to speak. What he can do and what he can’t do. He knows how to use that.”
Area scout Rich Sparks
(Areas: Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio)
Selection: Logan Salow (6th round)
On Logan Salow:
“I saw Logan in high school. He’s from Ashland, Kentucky. He’s had a strong progression. He took a big leap this summer and spring. Over the last couple of years, his stuff has gotten crisper. His fastball has gotten firmer. He really shined this year with fastball and the slider got really good. He was a strike-thrower this year. He got a lot of people to swing-and-miss with both the fastball and the slider. Primarily [the swings-and-misses came] with the slider, but he really improved from last year, for sure.
“I liked him in the closer role. However, I didn’t see a whole lot of his third pitch. When you are a closer in the SEC, you don’t see a lot of that change-up. He might flash it once or twice a game or in his warm-ups, but he didn’t really use it as an effective pitch. That’s not to say it isn’t a good pitch, but he just didn’t show it enough for me to say that he is a starter.
He’s not really a big guy, but he’s a solid, athletic strong kid. We saw him at 94 [MPH]. It’s hard to say that we can project him to be a guy that throws 95, 96. That being said, I saw Logan in a number of different roles this year. I saw him throw 81 pitches against LSU. He came in in the fourth inning and changed the game. I’ve also seen him throw 40 pitches and then the next day, he might throw 15. If you get him in that role as a closer, he might throw 15 pitches two straight days and his velo may spike, but, again, it’s hard for me to say that he might throw any harder.”
Area scout Jimmy Coffman
(Areas: Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Western Canada)
Selections: Jack Meggs (10th round), Cooper Goldby (35th round)
On Jack Meggs:
“You can average out a lot of his tools. He has a solid-average arm and solid-average range. His instincts are really good in centerfield. You see balls hit into the gap and he’s on a dead sprint immediately. I think he anticipates really well. He reads the ball well off of the bat and his routes are just really good. What I noticed in seeing him play for four years is that he gets better every year. I was a little surprised when I saw what his [year-end] batting average was because it must have dropped quite a bit towards the end. He was above .300 for quite a bit of the time.
He just grinds out at-bats. I’ve seen him with some really good at-bats against good pitching. He shows a little bit of emotion when he plays, which I like. He’s kind of a quiet kid off of the field, but when he plays, he plays with his hair on fire. He’s a vocal leader with his teammates.
A couple of years ago when he was a sophomore, they were down to their final out in the Pac-12 tournament. This kind of depicts what kind of player he is. He came up and he had a full count on him and he battled and battled and he kept fouling pitches off. The pitcher was throwing really hard. For some reason, he thought to lay down a drag bunt, and it’s perfect. They overthrow first, so he gets to second and the next guy up gets a base hit and he scores the tying run. Then he comes up in, I think, the 11th and hit a game-winning single. It was just amazing that they were down to their last out and he decides that he can’t hit this guy, so he’s going to lay down this perfect drag bunt and basically won the game for them later on. I saw him do a lot of stuff like that over the years.
He grew up in a dugout from day one [Meggs’ father, Lindsey, is the head coach at Washington]. He was born in Chico when his dad was down there and I think [his dad] won at least one national championship for Division II. Lindsey is an intense guy, too. He’s a military general on the field, too. So the kid grew up with all of that. I think when you do that, you get a little bit of an advantage a lot of the times because nothing is really going to get to you. You have been through all of the battles.
I think he’s a really good baseball player. I hope he continues to improve because I think he’s gotten better every year. Last year, he started off with the Mickey Tettleton hitting where he was really opened up and had the bat flat and it looked really awkward. It looked like he was late on everything all of the time. This year, he was a lot more conventional and he looked a lot more balanced. He’s a much more traditional hitter up there now. He’s a little handsy and he has some power. I’ve seen him hit a couple of long homeruns at Washington, and it isn’t easy to hit homeruns there because of the weather and sea level and all of that. He’s got some pull power and I think he’ll come into some more power as he continues to mature.”
On Cooper Goldby:
“I saw Cooper the last two years [at Lewis-Clark State]. He split time last year with a guy, but I did see him a few times. This year, it was surprising – maybe it was just that I didn’t see him enough last year. But he’s really scrappy. He bounces around and has really good reaction on balls in the dirt. He’s just a really solid catch-and-throw guy. And this year, he ended up hitting .337 for those guys.
He doesn’t have much power, but he will hit gaps and grind out at-bats. Another guy who is in a baseball family. His dad is the West Coast cross-checker for the Marlins. He’s another coach-on-the-field type guy. Real positive energy and his field presence is really good. You see him hustling around and he’s a team leader and all of that. Coaches are going to love him. He’ll call a good game and be a real solid teammate for everybody. Real good kid.”
Area scout Craig Conklin
(Area: Southern California)
Selection: Slater Lee (24th round)
On Slater Lee and his success as a senior after dropping his arm angle to a lower slot:
“I think it was a combination of dropping the arm angle and him finally being healthy. I believe he had a meniscus issue his sophomore and junior years. It was a combination of being healthy and just trying to do something different [with the arm angle].
Basically, the drop in his arm angle dropped his velocity a little bit but added movement, and his change-up works better. It’s got more fade and sink to it later moreso than the traditional high ¾ slot that he used to have. I think he has found more use and realized that ‘I can always get 89-90, so when I try to do that, I just get hammered.’ So he lowered his slot and he gets more life on his ball and more sink. It’s better than 90 straight.
He’s a reliever. He could spot start, but he’s going to be a reliever. That’s going to be his role.”
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