by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor
After taking a trio of top pitchers with their first three picks in last year’s amateur draft, the A’s started off by selecting three position players in this year’s draft. And on Monday, the A’s made a high school player their top pick for the first time since they took prep outfielder Billy McKinney with their first pick in 2013.
With their first pick in this year’s draft, and the sixth overall selection, the A’s took toolsy high school outfielder Austin Beck. The North Carolina native possesses a rare combination of power, speed and defense that made him a popular top ten pick on most draft boards.
The 18-year-old impressed the A’s front office during a private workout at the Coliseum last week, and the team believes his speed could allow him to stick as a center fielder. He’s got a good enough arm to serve as a successful right fielder as well. But it’s his raw power potential that really intrigues most observers. Scouts believe Beck’s got a special bat.
He underwent ACL surgery late in his junior year, which left him sidelined for most of the summer and fall of 2016, but he returned to action with a vengeance. Physically bigger and stronger than before, Beck wielded an almost unstoppable bat for his high school squad in 2017, batting .590 while belting 12 home runs and 11 doubles over 28 games for North Davidson.
With their second selection, and the 33rd overall pick, in the Competitive Balance Round A, the A’s took speedy shortstop Kevin Merrell out of the University of South Florida. The 21-year-old has a well-earned reputation as a solid contact hitter. His .384 batting average was best in the AAC this year, and he led his team in batting average in each of his three seasons with South Florida.
His bat isn’t all he has to offer though. Many felt that Merrell might possibly be the fastest player in the draft, and he swiped 56 bases in 67 attempts over his three years at USF. He primarily played shortstop this year, but mainly played second base the previous season. And with his undeniable speed, many feel that Merrell may eventually end up in center field.
And finally, with their third selection, and the 43rd overall pick, in the 2nd round, the A’s took slugging outfielder Greg Deichmann out of LSU. Profiling as a bit of a Matt Olson type, the left-handed power hitter was LSU’s home run, RBI and walk leader this season. The Louisiana native played first base earlier in his college career, but his strong arm has made him an effective right fielder.
Deichmann’s power and plate discipline have continued to improve. In his sophomore year, he hit .288 with 11 home runs and 19 walks, while in his junior season, he hit .320 with 19 home runs and 48 walks in almost the same number of at-bats. With his mature frame and advanced approach, as long as he lives up to expectations, the 22-year-old could be a fast-mover through the A’s system.
#1 – 1st Round
North Davidson HS, North Carolina
Age: 18 / Height: 6’1″ / Weight: 200 lbs.
Bats: Right / Throws: Right
2017 HS Stats: 28 G / 41 R / 12 HR / 38 RBI / .590 AVG / .700 OBP / 1.218 SLG
#2 – 1st Round Supplemental
Age: 21 / Height: 6’1″ / Weight: 189 lbs.
Bats: Left / Throws: Right
2017 College Stats: 216 AB / 7 HR / 29 BB / 31 K / .384 AVG / .464 OBP / .569 SLG
#3 – 2nd Round
Age: 22 / Height: 6’2″ / Weight: 209 lbs.
Bats: Left / Throws: Right
2017 College Stats: 241 AB / 19 HR / 48 BB / 53 K / .320 AVG / .429 OBP / .606 SLG