The Telegraph has learned the Atlanta Braves, who have the fifth overall pick in June’s amateur baseball draft, have serious interest in North Carolina high school outfielder Austin Beck.
Sources say Braves general manager John Coppolella and scouting director Brian Bridges have held several private workouts and discussions with Beck. They’ve also met with other high school talents including Hunter Greene, Shane Baz, Nick Pratto and Royce Lewis. But it seems Beck may be the favorite.
Several websites and publications have linked the Braves to Beck, who is a right-handed hitting outfielder at North Davidson High School. Beck may have the highest upside in the entire draft, with some scouts comparing him to Gary Sheffield and others likening him to Mike Trout.
Scouts say Beck has electric bat speed, producing plus-plus power and pretty much every other tool — hit, run, field and arm - grades out as plus.
The consensus is the top four players in the draft will be two-way stars Hunter Greene and Brendan McKay, Vanderbilt pitcher Kyle Wright and California high school infielder Royce Lewis.
That could leave Beck available for the Braves with the fifth pick.
There is some risk associated with Beck since he did not play in major showcases last summer or for Team USA. He suffered a torn ACL and meniscus last spring causing him to sit out, but Beck has recovered and has convinced the Braves of his potential upside and impact.
Beck would likely take a significant cut from the slot the Braves are allotted with the fifth selection. It could be similar to what Atlanta did last year with Ian Anderson. They got the player they coveted in Anderson, who had arguably the highest upside of any pitcher in the draft, and they saved money which was later spread out to sign other high upside players, including Joey Wentz, Kyle Muller, and Bryse Wilson.
Most believe the Braves’ draft strategy could be more balanced this year, after having two straight drafts that focused heavily on pitching. Atlanta’s pitched depth in the minor leagues could allow the scouting department to select more position players this year.
The Braves have an outstanding outfield prospect in 19-year-old Ronald Acuna, but there is a need for another high-upside position player prospect. Beck hits that description, particularly with Atlanta’s preference for high school talent.
The draft will be held June 12-14.
Listen to "The Bill Shanks Show" from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on "Middle Georgia’s ESPN" – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at email@example.com.