Toolshed: Beer fermenting in Fall League

No. 97 prospect out to make impression after slow D-backs start

Seth Beer went 6-for-18 (.333) through his first five games of the Fall League season. (Jill Weisleder/MLB Photos)

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com | September 27, 2019 10:30 AM

Seth Beer could get used to this whole Arizona thing. So could his family, who is visiting the state for the next week.

"It's a lot different than Georgia," he laughed. "I grew up in the humidity my whole life, so the dry heat is new. My mom has bad asthma, and she's already talking about how much better she can breathe here. That's a big deal. If my mom feels good here, then everybody's happy."

Given its reputation as a prospect finishing school, an assignment to the Arizona Fall League has some significance for any player. But for Beer, there are more factors involved. For starters, it's his first trip to Arizona as a D-backs prospect following his deadline trade from the Astros. Beyond that, he's out to make a stronger first impression after what could have otherwise been a rough introduction.

Begin with the trade.

As MLB.com's No. 97 overall prospect and a 2018 first-round pick, Beer was undoubtedly an asset for a contending Astros organization that was looking to build up its Major League strength before the July 31 Trade Deadline. He was also an asset with an arrow pointing decidedly up. One of the stronger performers in recent college baseball history, the Clemson product quieted some of the worries about how his offense would translate to the wood-bat pro game with the start to his first full season. Entering the final day of July -- an off day on the Texas League schedule -- he had produced a .309/.410/.564 line with 25 homers, 17 doubles and 86 RBIs over 98 games between Class A Advanced Fayetteville and Double-A Corpus Christi. The 23-year-old, left-handed slugger's numbers hadn't even slipped that much after his promotion, as he'd gone deep 16 times and posted a .950 OPS in 63 contests for the Hooks. On a much smaller scale, he had homered in three straight games going into the Deadline.

Video: Hooks' Beer homers in third straight

There were still questions about Beer's defense -- he played both left field and first base but didn't grade out highly at either end -- but few doubts remained about his bat. Any team looking to deal with the Astros might well ask about him, and he knew it. So did those around him.

"I was coming back [to Corpus Christi from Springfield] on a 17-hour bus trip," Beer said. "I rolled into an apartment that I was staying in, and I was there with my girlfriend. She was thinking about the whole Trade Deadline, and at that point, there were four minutes left until the deadline would pass. I was thinking I didn't know what would happen. Maybe I get moved. Maybe I don't. We'll just see."

That's when the phone rang. As Beer and his girlfriend counted down to the 4 p.m. ET deadline, the slugger heard from the Astros brass. He had been traded to the D-backs, along with fellow prospects Josh Rojas, J.B. Bukauskas and Corbin Martin, for 2009 AL Cy Young winner and six-time All-Star Zack Greinke. Thirteen months after he went 28th overall in the 2018 Draft, Beer was already on his second organization.

"I was kind of taken back a little bit," he said. "It's a business, and that's all part of it. But for me, I appreciate what they've done for me and getting me started. I'm excited to be a Diamondback, to be here, to see all the cool stuff they've got going in Arizona."

As expected, the D-backs assigned Beer to Double-A Jackson, but he struggled down the stretch in the Southern League. Beer went 7-for-36 (.194) in his first 10 games with the Generals and didn't go deep until Aug. 20, in his 16th contest for the club. That ended up being his only regular-season homer for Jackson. Beer finished out the campaign with a .205/.297/.318 line and eight extra-base hits over 24 games following the deal. 

But the answers to questions about Beer's struggles weren't to be found in the trade alone or in the suggestion that old concerns about his bat were finally catching up to him. It was more nuanced than that.

"I think it was a lot of things," he said. "I think fatigue played a big part. It's my first full season. I've never played in that time of the year. And then, guys made good pitches on me, and I wasn't able to execute to the best of my abilities. Everything was a little new to me, too, just a little different. It was a whole bunch of things. I just needed to find some comfort, and that's where I am now. But it just took a little bit to get over that assortment of things."

Video: Generals' Beer hits single to center

The former NCAA standout seemed to find his footing some by the Southern League postseason. Beer went 8-for-32 (.250) with a homer, two doubles and an even 3/3 K/BB ratio over nine playoff games as Jackson claimed the league crown. (That's his second pro championship in as many years; he helped Buies Creek win the Carolina League title in 2018.) The September success was in part due to his adjustment to dealing with the aforementioned fatigue.

"I think the biggest one for me is just getting into recovery," he said. "I need to stretch. I've been rolling a lot. Ice up. Take care of my body to the best of my ability. It's been good. I've got something like a second wave here, and I've been really happy about that."

The adjustments go beyond the physical. Like anyone switching to a new branch or new company, Beer had to grow accustomed to new policies. For one, the D-backs seemed to let their prospects, in his words, "be a little bit more on their own" than their Astros counterparts, and in some ways, that's a transition he has enjoyed in the last two months.

"If you want to be a big leaguer, you have to be exposed to that at some point," Beer said. "For me, that was my first taste of that. At the end of the day, you're your own best hitting coach. It opened my eyes that I can do this without some help. You're the player. You're your own best coach. You know you best. So to get that little bit of an opening there was a big deal for me."

One of the first things he self-diagnosed was the need to better handle the upper-90s or even triple-digit velocity that comes more frequently the closer he gets to the Majors.

"Being able to slow down the game a little more and just get comfortable seeing those types of pitches," he said. "It's like anything. You have to build your way up. I just needed to continuously see that on a daily basis. Then, I knew to get loaded earlier, trust my swing is going to be there and that it's going to work. I needed to get to that point."

Jackson manager Blake Lalli informed Beer that he'd be headed to the AFL only three days after the trade, a sign that Arizona immediately had big plans for its new No. 4 prospect.

The biggest emphasis in the first week has been on the defensive end, with Beer playing first base exclusively through his first four games in the field with Salt River. He made sure to pack his outfield glove too -- "I always have it just in case," he said -- but it's the corner infield that is drawing his almost-exclusive attention in Arizona after he played primarily outfield in college. That could be well-timed for the D-backs. Arizona famously dealt franchise star Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals last offseason and has seen its first basemen rank collectively 17th with a 1.8 fWAR and 19th with a 98 wRC+. While former prospects Christian Walker and Kevin Cron are capable of holding down the spot, there could be hope that Beer takes over first for the long run.

"I think I've grown a lot when it comes to situational stuff and the mechanics of ground balls in certain spots and also the awareness of what's happening with certain plays, what's going on around me so I can put myself in position to execute the play to the best of my ability," Beer said. "I can feel it start to click a little better for me, and that's exciting. This can be a long-term position that it seems like I'll be playing, so I'm excited to continue to learn and get better."

Offseason MiLB include

The bat has looked back on track as well in the small AFL sample. Entering Friday, Beer was 6-for-18 (.333) with a double and two RBIs through five games with the Rafters.

This trip to Arizona represents many opportunities for Beer. An opportunity to turn around his hitting. An opportunity to build a defensive foundation at first base. An opportunity to adjust to the fatigue of a long season. But perhaps most importantly to both him and his mother's breathing, it's an opportunity to get used to a place he hopes to call home.

"I think the biggest thing for me is, I'm more of a guy that's going to give it all on the field, do whatever I can to help my team win," he said. "At some point, I want to help out this organization and make a few playoff runs. I speak to all the other guys here, and they all have the same outlook. We want to do something special with the opportunity we're given here in this organization."

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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