Minor League Insider: Former UTA star Preston Beck is finding his groove

Posted Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information Elsewhere on the farm Triple A Round Rock: Reliever Ben Rowen gave up his first earned run with the Express, allowing an earned run on two hits over an inning Wednesday. Still, Rowen has a 0.38 ERA over 16 appearances with the Express, and appears to be a likely candidate to come up to the big leagues when rosters expand in September. Double A Frisco: Left-hander Alex Claudio has pitched well in relief, posting a 1.46 ERA over 16 appearances. … Right-hander Nick Martinez allowed three runs, one earned, on three hits over six innings Friday, his second consecutive quality start since his promotion to the RoughRiders. High A Myrtle Beach: Right-hander Alec Asher threw six scoreless innings Friday, and has 14 scoreless innings over his past two starts. … Catcher Kellin Deglan had his fourth multi-hit effort Friday in his past 10 games, and is batting .306 during that stretch. Arizona: Right-hander Matt West, rehabbing from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery, is throwing well in live batting practice sessions, and is expected to return to game action before the end of the season.

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Preston Beck has always been known for his strong outfield arm. That is one tool that scouts raved about when he came out of UT Arlington last year, and something that has kept him on the radar in his first two professional seasons.

Beck, the Rangers’ fifth-round draft pick in 2012, has 13 assists from right field over his first 92 games at High A Myrtle Beach this season. To put that in perspective, Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton — two outfielders known for strong, accurate arms — have never had 13 assists in a season in the big leagues.

Beck also had 12 assists last season at Short A Spokane, the second most in the Northwest League.

“He may have the best outfield arm in the system,” Rangers director of minor league operations Jake Krug said. “If not, he’s up there. He can really throw. That’s the tool. It’s a 65-70 arm.”

A 65-70 ranking on a scouting scale, which goes up to 80, is regarded as well above-average for players.

While Beck has an arm scouts gush over and good enough speed to cover ground in right field, the real story to his development is his bat. Could he be a productive enough offensive threat to advance leagues?

Coming out of college, Beck had put up good numbers at the plate. He batted .335 and set a school record with 71 RBIs as a junior in 2012. He added 14 home runs, nine doubles and four triples.

But making the transition from college to the professional level is a significant step. A wood bat’s sweet spot is about one-third the size of an aluminum bat’s, not to mention the level of pitching increases.

Beck batted .251 with 10 doubles, three triples, three home runs and 29 RBIs over 247 at-bats with Spokane last year, and got off to a sluggish start this season.

The Rangers had Beck begin the season at Low A Hickory, and intended for him to stay there for a few months to continue his development. But injuries and circumstances early in the season forced them to push him up to Myrtle Beach after eight games at Low A.

And it showed early on.

The 22-year-old, who bats left-handed and throws right-handed, batted .220 in April, .221 in May and .212 in June for the Pelicans. He has turned it around the past six weeks, though.

Beck had a .271 average with 15 RBIs in July, and went into Saturday’s game batting .308 through his first 12 games in August.

“It’s taken him some time, just not the purest bat,” Krug said. “If he would’ve stayed at Hickory for the first few months and then gone to Myrtle Beach, probably would’ve been about where he’s at now. So it just shows the hard work he’s put in and the adjustments he’s been able to make.”

Beck said it has been a process adjusting from college to pro ball. Getting used to wood bats, the advanced pitching level and the travel schedule are all hurdles that every minor leaguer has to overcome, and Beck is no different.

Pitchers fed Beck a heavy dose of inside fastballs early on, for instance, but he has since shortened his swing and made it more compact to get to them.

The past six weeks at the plate have shown that, of course, and Beck is beginning to develop into the type of prospect the Rangers envisioned.

Beck is also taking his professional career in stride and is excited that it has taken him to Myrtle Beach. He is an avid fisherman in an ideal spot to enjoy off-days. Recently, Beck and his brother reeled in a 120-pound tarpon.

Not a bad catch, but Beck is hoping to end his season with something else. The Pelicans have a three-game lead in the Carolina League, and are hoping to take it all in the postseason.

“Myrtle has been awesome, and hopefully we can finish this season off by winning a ring,” Beck said. “That would cap it off.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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