OAKLAND — Bob Melvin won’t even say the name. Minutes after Austin Beck holds his introductory press conference in the Coliseum dugout on Tuesday afternoon, a reporter asks the Oakland Athletics manager who Beck — last week’s No. 6 overall pick in the draft — reminds him of.
“I’ve heard some comps,” Melvin explained.
Plucked out of North Davidson High School in Lexington, N.C., Beck, 18, has just inked a club-record $5,303,000 signing bonus.
In the run-up to the draft, all the insiders and scouts mentioned one player time and again whenever Beck’s name was mentioned: Mike Trout.
“I don’t like to put comps on guys,” Melvin continued. “But [he] legitimately looks like a five-tool guy. He can do just about everything. He throws. He runs. He hits. He hits for power. All the type of things that you would hope you would get in a premier first-round pick. He has got all those tools. So, we’re excited about it.”
Beck is also familiar with the parallels to the two-time MVP.
“I’ve heard of it,” Beck said, cracking a big smile as soon as Trout’s name is mentioned. “But he’s the best player in the game. So, I mean, it’s kind of hard to compare anybody to that, but I guess I’ve got similar tools to what he [has].”
In person, Beck — with his dirty blonde hair flowing out of the back of his cap and a whisker-like beard on his chin — looks more like Josh Reddick’s younger brother than an 18-year-old Mike Trout.
Now built like an NFL safety, Trout measured 6-foot-1, 200 pounds when the Los Angeles Angels took him with the No. 24 pick in 2009. Oakland lists Beck at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, but as he holds court in the dugout and takes batting practice on the Coliseum diamond, he looks much closer to the 5-foot-11, 175-pound measurments in his MLB.com draft profile.
“I mean, every kid between 18 and 22, there’s just natural maturation that happens,” director of scouting Eric Kubota explained. “He’s a really, really strong kid, as it is now. We don’t expect him to get taller, but he doesn’t have to be taller. He’s plenty tall baseball-wise. I mean, there’s just going to be natural physical maturation that happens.”
In his 33rd season in the organization and his 16th overseeing the draft, Kubota isn’t worried about Beck’s stature or the comparisons to the Angels superstar.
“I don’t think it’s fair to compare anybody to Mike Trout,” Kubota said. “So, I think what Austin has is an unusual gift as far as the power potential, the bat speed and he’s very athletic.”
Beck, who tore his ACL in his left knee as a junior at North Davidson before hitting .590 with 12 homers as a senior, possesses one tool in particular that stood out to the Oakland front office.
“He’s got tremendous bat speed,” Kubota said. “I mean, what he does as far as generating bat speed and the ease with which he generates it is really unique, in our opinion. So, that translates to power down the road. It translates to a lot of good things.”
Beck put plenty of homers in the seats that sit atop the out-of-town scoreboard in left field on Tuesday afternoon as he took batting practice with the big league club. He also misjudged a couple of deep drives center in field as he shagged fly balls alongside players like Khris Davis, who he grew up watching.
On Wednesday morning, the top pick flew down to the desert, to report for duty with the Arizona League Athletics, the club’s rookie level affiliate. Before Beck departed, Kubota offered some simple advice. “Just go have fun,” he said. “It’s all baseball now.”
And definitely don’t worry about trying to be that center fielder down in Anaheim.
“He’ll just create his own legacy from here rather than having to be compared to somebody,” Kubota said.
Beck and the MVP
Asked which big leaguer he modeled his game after as a kid in North Carolina, Beck mentioned a former MVP not named Trout.
“Growing up my favorite player in the field was probably Andrew McCutchen,” Beck said of the 2013 National League MVP who is famous for his charity work. “And just the stuff he does off the field and how well he plays on the field.”