Austin Beck didn't open up the new month with a bang. He opened it with two. Oakland's No. 5 prospect went yard twice and plated three runs in his first career multi-homer game en route to Class A Advanced Stockton's 9-3 victory over Visalia on Wednesday night at Banner Island Ballpark.
Austin Beck didn't open up the new month with a bang. He opened it with two.
Oakland's No. 5 prospect went yard twice and plated three runs in his first career multi-homer game en route to Class A Advanced Stockton's 9-3 victory over Visalia on Wednesday night at Banner Island Ballpark.
The sixth overall pick in the 2017 Draft doubled his long ball tally from last year. Beck led the Midwest League in hits last season, but only two of his 146 base knocks left the yard. After nearly one month of play in the California League, the 20-year-old has tallied four big flies.and 14 RBIs.
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The secret? Maybe some offseason work with one of baseball's best.
Beck spent a portion of his winter in Nashville working with 2018 American League Most Valuable Player and World Series champion Mookie Betts. The North Carolina native made the six-hour trek to Tennessee in December and January to work with Betts and his hitting instructor, and the trio focused on regulating hard contact.
"I had to change my swing quite a bit," Beck said. "Coming out of high school I had a bigger leg kick, a longer swing. I shortened everything up. When I was working with Mookie, that's what we focused on. Now that we're in the Cal League, the ball floats a little better than Wisconsin. You just have to make contact and it'll go."
That certainly proved that to be the case Wednesday night, as he tagged Visalia starter Cole Stapler twice in his first two at-bats. His first roundtripper came early. After Mickey McDonald and seventh-ranked Jameson Hannah opened the bottom of the first inning with two quick outs, Beck lofted a solo shot to center field.
The right-hander popped Stapler again in the third, this time on a two-run blast to right-center. The jack gave Stockton a 4-0 lead. Beck lined out, struck out and grounded into a double play in his final three at-bats.
"I matched [last season's total] in one night, that's pretty awesome," Beck laughed.
Although he's struggled average-wise in his first month in the California League -- the 20-year-old is currently hitting .245 -- he has seen a definite improvement in his approach at the plate since meeting with Betts. The long balls are just a plus.
"We really focused on driving the ball into gaps, hitting balls hard and going out there with a good mental approach too," Beck said. "It's worked out for me pretty well this year.
"I watched some videos of him and how smooth he hits, even in just batting practice. He takes it to the field and it's the same mentality: smooth, nice and easy to the ball."
Betts paved his way to stardom after debuting for Boston in 2014. The two-time Silver Slugger winner won the batting title in 2018 and has accumulated three consecutive All-Star berths for the Red Sox since 2016.
"It was really impactful just to watch him hit," Beck remarked.
Oakland nabbed the North Carolina native straight from high school with ites first-round pick and signed him for a franchise-record $5,303,000 shortly after. The North Carolina native made his pro debut that summer in the Rookie-level Arizona League, but got off to a rocky start, hitting .211/.293/.349. He fared better in 2018 at Class A Beloit as the outfielder's average ticked up to .296 -- a team high and the sixth-best average in the league. Beck also led the Snappers in doubles (29) and his 60 RBIs were second-most on the team to Hunter Hargrove (68).
Right-hander Mitchell Jordan (3-2) earned the Ports' sixth straight win after matching a career-high 10 strikeouts for the second consecutive start. The 24-year-old surrendered two earned runs on six hits and a walk through six innings.Tenth-ranked Jeremy Eierman and Lazaro Armenteros homered for Stockton, with Eierman finishing the night 3-for-4 with with four RBIs and two runs scored.
Stapler (2-2) took the loss after allowing three homers and five runs through six innings. He gave up six hits and struck out five. Camden Duzenack smacked a two-run shot off Jordan.
Katie Woo is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter <a href="twitter.com/katiejwoo>@katiejwoo.