The Texas Rangers took a local product with their fifth-round pick in last week's MLB Draft, selecting UT-Arlington outfielder Preston Beck.
Beck, 21, is coming off a breakout season for the Mavericks in which he posted a .335/.447/.602 slash line with a career-high 14 home runs and 71 RBI in 60 games. He walked 40 times, was plunked eight times, and had 33 strikeouts.
The Dallas native began catching the eyes of scouts when he was named a Freshman All-American at UTA in 2010, hitting .352 while starting 56 games. Although his numbers dipped with the new BBCOR bats as a sophomore––batting .307/.406/.456 in 55 contests––Beck put himself on the 2012 draft map with a strong performance in the Cape Cod League.
The left-handed hitter was limited to only 14 games on the Cape due to a hip injury that ultimately required surgery, but he performed well with the wood bat in the abbreviated stint. Playing with the Brewster Whitecaps, Beck went 15-for-50 (.300) with two doubles, two home runs, seven walks, and 11 strikeouts.
Injuries were a slight issue for Beck during his collegiate career. In addition to the hip surgery last summer, the right-handed thrower had elbow surgery between his freshman and sophomore campaigns. Still, Beck remained on the field throughout all three regular seasons in Arlington.
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Beck has a definite plus arm, as he's hit the mid-to-upper 90s on the radar gun from the outfield. He spent much of his collegiate career in right field and projects to stay there as a professional. But Beck will be sharing the Spokane outfield with Gonzaga product Royce Bolinger, who also has elite arm strength.
The prospect also shows a good feel for hitting––including a quick, short stroke when he played with wood bats in the Cape last summer––to go along with some intriguing raw power.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with the Rangers' fifth-round selection, who signed for a reported slot-level $207,900 bonus (per Baseball America), the day after the draft.
Jason Cole: What are your thoughts on getting selected by the Rangers yesterday?
Preston Beck: It was pretty surprising. I had heard from the Yankees that they would select me the pick after. My family and I were sitting there in anticipation, waiting for that pick. The Rangers went the pick before, and they got me. We were just ecstatic. It was awesome, going to a team like the Rangers. I received a whole bunch of phone calls after that. It was a great experience.
Cole: Given the fact that you were drafted by the hometown team, how crazy have the last couple days been for you? I'm sure you've been hearing from lots of friends and family.
Beck: It's very exciting. Everyone loves the Rangers around here. It's an awesome feeling to be playing for a team like that. A lot of people who have contacted me aren't really familiar with how the minor league system works. Some people have texted me and asked or wondered if I'm going to be playing at Rangers Ballpark in a week or so. I told them that's now how it works exactly (laughs). But yeah, with friends and family it has been real big. A lot of people are excited for me.
Cole: Did you grow up as a Rangers fan?
Beck: Oh, yeah. I always grew up as a Rangers fan. I've been to a bunch of games over the years. I've been to a bunch of playoff games the last two years. I've followed the team through their ups and downs. It's pretty exciting to play for a team that is doing so well recently.
Cole: Your area scout in North Texas was Jay Eddings. What has your relationship been like with him?
Beck: I met Jay early on this spring. We talked at a Starbucks pretty close to UTA. We just had about a 30-minute conversation about my interest in playing, and he explained what the Rangers were about. That was about the extent of our relationship at that point. That was the only time we had talked.
Cole: How much have you spoken with the Rangers since you were picked?
Beck: I've been on the phone probably about four or five times with Jay. We've been trying to get stuff figured out about where I'm going and what I'll need. I've got to figure out how to get a passport pretty soon so I can go and play in Vancouver with Spokane. But yeah, that's mainly what our discussions have been about.
Cole: Tell me about the UT-Arlington program and being able to play there. Even though it's not one of the traditional powers, it has produced more than a few major leaguers in recent years.
Beck: We hold our own. We've been getting better and better players throughout the years. We've been getting them better and giving them the opportunity to get looked at by scouts frequently.
It's very accessible for scouts––they don't try to hide guys from them. There's none of that stuff. Yeah, they've had a good track record of putting out major leaguers, and there are a bunch of guys in the minors that will hopefully make their debut soon, too.
Cole: Tim Steggall spent a couple years in the Rangers' organization as a player, and now he's working with the UT-Arlington baseball program. Have you spoken with him yet?
Beck: Yeah, I actually saw Tim today. I was hitting up at the cages, and he was working at our field. I became friends with Tim this year. He's our operations guy for the team––he handled various things for us throughout the year.
Cole: He played in Spokane two years ago. Did he tell you about his experience playing in Spokane and the Rangers' system and what to expect?
Beck: Yeah, he told me today that it's going to be a bunch of fun. He really liked it up there. He gave me a bunch of names and told me who to say hello to. He was just really excited for me and told me to have fun out there.
Cole: What were your thoughts on your performance at UTA this season?
Beck: I thought I did well––coming from five home runs, and I think I had 13 or 14 this year. Just to be able to get better each year––from freshman year, to sophomore year, to junior year. I was glad that I put together the season I had that would put me in contention to get drafted.
Cole: You were at UT-Arlington for three years and dealt with the transition to the new bats between your freshman and sophomore season. You've also played with wood a little bit, including in the Cape Cod League last summer. How close are the new bats to a wood bat?
Beck: I'd say going from last spring season to the Cape wasn't much of a transition because the bats are pretty similar to wood bats. They're pretty top-heavy like a wood bat. They don't have those light barrels that they used to have.
They have similar pop, also. I'd say the aluminum still has a little bit more even though some people say they're the same. But it made it a lot easier transition, going from the BBCOR to the wood bat last summer.
Cole: You guys went on a late-season run and won the Southland Conference Tournament this year, including winning the semifinal game in dramatic fashion. Even though the regional probably didn't go as you guys had hoped, what was that experience like?
Beck: It was an awesome run we had. We hadn't lost a game since the McNeese series, when we got swept. And we just ran the table. We matched up with McNeese in the first game of the tournament and beat them pretty good. Then we got to play Southeastern Louisiana in the championship. They were hot, and they had previously swept us in the regular season. It was good to play well against them, which we hadn't done prior to that.
Cole: Tell me a little about your game offensively. What kind of hitter do you view yourself as?
Beck: I wouldn't say I've figured myself out completely as a player at the plate. I'm learning stuff all the time. I've found that, this year, what helped me increase my power was staying back. I had problems in the past of jumping at balls or getting too eager and taking too big of swings. I stayed more relaxed and was focusing in on a pitch. I was hitting the good hitters' pitches.
Cole: You're known for having a well above-average arm, and I know you pitched a bit as a freshman and sophomore. Was it one of those deals where you knew that hitting would be in your future so you didn't bother with pitching as much?
Beck: Yeah. I mean, I don't think I was necessarily bad at it. But I think playing every day––being an outfielder every day––it would be strenuous to pitch and try to go play outfield after that. It might have worked out if I was maybe a first baseman, but it was really just due to the fact that the rest and recovery would be tough from having to throw from the outfield and pitching, too.
Cole: Are you expecting to be in right field this summer with Spokane?
Beck: Wherever the Rangers have their plans for me, I think that's where I'll play. But I've gotten comfortable with right field. I definitely feel most comfortable out there.
Cole: As you look forward to your summer in Spokane, are there a couple aspects of your game that you really want to develop?
Beck: Yeah. I want to get faster. I want to be able to become a base-stealing threat. I really haven't worked on it through the course of my college career. I'd like to get better defensively––getting better reads and jumps on balls out there. And I just want to try to progress as a hitter, also. I want to be able to hit to all fields.
Q&A with Rangers 5th-round pick Preston Beck
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