As was the case with 2015 supplemental-round selection Daz Cameron, 2018 first-rounder Seth Beer is a player that the Astros likely never thought they’d have a chance to get their hands on. The lumbering slugger from Clemson was once the top freshman in NCAA baseball and seen as a potential 1.1 selection, but took a bit of a tumble down draft lists as his profile came under greater scrutiny. It is tough to come up with much criticism of Beer at the plate, but questions persist about whether or not he offers anything else on the diamond.
There is little debate about most of Beer’s profile- he is a bottom of the barrel runner and more “baseball athletic” than explosive on the diamond. While he has a solid arm, his lack of foot speed will preclude him from playing the outfield is a professional, and many doubt his ability to hold down first base at the next level as well. That said, very few question his significant offensive potential, particularly his power and approach. As is the case with many power-hitting prospects, debate surrounding Beer centers on his hit tool. Those bullish on Beer see a 55 hitter with 70 power, who likely doesn’t play the field but generates more than enough value with his bat to be a regular DH. Detractors, on the other hand, project a below average hit, limited by swing-and-miss, and a three-true-outcomes hitter that struggles to produce given his lack of defensive or baserunning value.
Beer signed almost immediately after the draft and started making noise right away, mashing to the tune of .293/.431/.659 with Tri-City to earn a quick promotion to Quad Cities. Once there, he continued his torrid pace and held his walk rate steady at 11%+, translating to a .348/.443/.491 slash and another promotion after just 29 games. Next, with High-A Buies Creek, Beer hit something of a wall. His walk rate tumbled to just 3.5% in 27 games, and while he did hit 5 more homers to go with the 7 he hit between Tri-City and Quad Cities, his slash line fell to a paltry .262/.307/.439 at the level. The totality of his season line is still very impressive for a player getting his first taste of pro ball, but the lackluster performance with Buies Creek at season’s end will likely give some pause when projecting his development going forward.
For a player of Beer’s profile, strikeout and walk rates are the most important markers during development in my opinion. Outside of the aforementioned BB% dip with Buies Creek, the mashing lefty has to receive high marks for his early pro performance. His K rate was steadily below 20%, a good benchmark for a young power bat, and he was able to post 12 home runs in 297 plate appearances, evidencing the power that earned him a first-round draft slot.
Heading into 2019, Beer will be 22 years old with an assignment back to Buies Creek likely awaiting him. Should he be able to post numbers more in line with his Tri-City and Quad Cities rates there, a promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi won’t be far behind as he races fellow slugger Yordan Alvarez to a shot at the big-league DH job. Should he be able to hold his strikeout and walk rates while translating more of his elite raw power to gameday, Beer has every opportunity to crack midseason top-100s despite his complete lack of defensive value. It may be tough for Astros fans to get excited about one-dimensional offensive prospects after watching Jon Singleton and AJ Reed wash out, but Beer does not carry the same type of swing-and-miss concerns and many think more highly of his raw power.
While it’s hard to give out grades other than “incomplete” for truncated minor league seasons, Beer’s markers are where I want them to be at this point, and while his late-season funk with Buies Creek gives me some pause, I see Beer as a player with a good chance of raising his stock in 2019, and solidifying himself as a top-5 prospect in the system with a chance to crack the back end of top-100s before season’s end.