This is the seventh prospect deep sleep of 2019 and I can’t believe we are just now getting to one of my favorite prospect types: unathletic power hitters. First off, since we’re talking about MLB prospects, by unathletic I mean more athletic than the average person — just unathletic for a world-class athlete. A number of players/prospects fit this bill: Dan Vogelbach, Jake Burger, Pete Alonso, Malcom Nunez, Andrew Vaughn, Ryon Healy, … the list could go on.
Which brings us to Seth Beer. If prospects walked around with their red flags attached to them, Beer would look like a walking UN building. For starters, Beer is an epically bad fielder at any position. What’s odd about that is his swing is athletic, but that agility simply does not translate to the field. Any team that drafted Beer would have to make a decision: (1) try to develop him at first but be prepared for a negative fielder or (2) know that he’s going to be a career DH.
It’s a good thing he knows how to hit. Before getting serious about baseball, Beer was considered to have world-class swimming talent — he even trained with U.S. Olympians as a teenager. After a nudge from Paul Byrd, Beer settled into baseball. He was a bit of a latecomer so he was never drafted heading into college, but he turned some heads in his freshman year at Clemson:
With one of the best freshman seasons in college history, Beer was a Golden Spikes Award finalist. Compared to his collegiate debut, Beer struggled his sophomore and junior seasons. He was still one of the best hitters in college, he just never got back to that elite level. If you combine those with multiple subpar showings in showcases and wood-bat leagues, many scouts concluded that he would not be a good pro hitter because his power would be zapped without an aluminum bat. So he was a bat-only prospect with no bat.
Not everybody felt this way, however, as the Houston Astros scooped him up at the end of the first round in 2018, and threw him into the deep end just a few weeks later. Beer responded:
His selectivity took a hit as he progressed, but that isn’t concerning considering it was just his first pro season and it was just a small sample size. Still, the power some feared wouldn’t show up in pro ball did rear its head. He also got on base and was an overall productive hitter. Still, with so many red flags, Beer has more to prove in 2019. How well he hits this season will determine whether he is on the fast track to being the Houston DH (or first baseman?) or whether he is a career minor leaguer who may get a chance in 2023. So far so good:
Beer righted the ship in High-A, improving his walk rate (3.51 to 9.40) and his power is growing. The K-rate is even an acceptable 20.51. He should be promoted to Double-A very soon if he continues to hit like this — and then we will see what he is really made of when he faces a significant jump in pitching talent.
I chose to highlight Beer because unless he starts putting up MVP numbers at every level, he will never be in a top 100 prospect list. With good reason, DH-only prospects are not viewed as solid bets, but they can still be valuable. While scouts can doubt Beer all they want, this is a player you want to keep an eye on specifically because nobody else will be. He can become a cheap source of power and counting stats in a year or two if he continues to develop as he has been. There is plenty of reason to think he can keep this up. Beer’s kept his ratios consistent throughout each minor league level, despite facing better competition.
Let’s talk about his approach — because it’s awesome. Despite having plus power, Beer is not a pull hitter. He is a rarity in the minors: a power hitter who uses the entire field. So far in 2019, Beer actually has a higher Oppo% (38.1) than Pull% (35.7), which means he actually looks for the pitches he wants to hit — and even better — can hit them when he finds them. To do this means you have a consistent approach and the patience to execute said approach. It also means you have a swing to match your approach. Beer has a swing that can get long at times but he is generally quick to get his hips out of the way. He also stays low and looks to put the ball in the air.
In all, this guy is one to watch. Stay tuned.
(Aren’t you proud that I didn’t make a single beer joke?)