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A Peek At Seth Beer's First Base Education

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Seth Beer (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Seth Beer has always been acclaimed as a hit-first player, with his defense both in the outfield and at first base consistently grading out below-average. But the D-backs' recently acquired prospect came to the Arizona Fall League with one primary goal in mind.

“It’s to work heavily on defense at first base,” Beer said. “And get comfortable at the position and playing in any kind of situation there.”

It’s important to note that Beer, 23, is still relatively inexperienced at first base, having spent more of his amateur career—both in high school and in three years at Clemson—as an outfielder. The Astros' 2018 first-round pick also played mostly outfield during his first pro season, but Beer's well below-average speed keeps him from having much of a future in the grass.

It’s been his footwork around the bag that has kept Beer from being at least an average defender at first base, but he’s putting in the extra work needed to become a better defender, with D-backs coaches lauding him for his hard work and determination to improve.

“The more education he gets, the more he understands how the feet work and the hands work,” D-backs infield coordinator Gil Velazquez said.

“We’re trying to incorporate speed and agility stuff just to get him coordinated and get his feet active . . . trying to teach him the proper first steps. The first step is crucial for infield play. We do some slow, deliberate drills and some fast drills to get him to game speed. He’s adapting to it.”

Beer is a fast learner and has enough athleticism to play the position, according to Salt River hitting coach Travis Denker, who is also a member of the coaching staff for high Class A Visalia in the D-backs' organization.

“He’s got that fluid motion,” Denker said. “So we’re trying to bring that out for him on the field."

Beer’s drive and determination come from when the Georgia native was an elite competitive swimmer as a pre-teen, setting national records in both the 50- and 100-meter backstroke events at the age of 12. He believes that the work he put in to get to that level as a swimmer continues to help him as he advances in his baseball career.

“The biggest advantage it gave me was learning at a young age how training and preparation can affect you in the long run,” Beer said.

“When I was 12 and 13 years old, I would jump in the pool for three or four hours a day, six days a week. . . . It taught me a lot of discipline, it taught me a lot of things that you’re going to have to sacrifice to keep your dreams going, keeping your goals set. I had to be disciplined, had to work my body, and I prepared my body to the best of my abilities.”

Beer was one of the top hitters in the country during his three-year college career, batting .321/.489/.648 with 56 home runs in 188 games. The lefthanded-hitting slugger also walked nearly twice as many times as he struck out, in part because opposing pitchers stopped throwing him strikes after a big college debut in which he became the first freshman to be awarded the Dick Howser Trophy as the college baseball player of the year.

Despite the gaudy stats he posted in his three years at Clemson, there were concerns across the industry as to whether Beer would be able to hit with wood bats, especially due to his struggles during two summers with USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team. But a combined .294/.388/.508 slash line with 38 home runs over his first 189 professional games should eliminate any doubts about his offensive potential. Beer believes that those questions were a result of a small sample size with wood bats during his college days.

“I knew I could hit with a wood bat,” Beer said. “I just needed more time to hit with one consistently.

"After my first half-season after I was drafted, it’s just become the bat that I use every day. . . . There will still be adjustments that I need to make. I feel like I’m working towards making a perfect swing, but I feel a lot more comfortable with a wood bat now.”

Beer is continuing his swing refinements during his time in the Arizona Fall League.

“Mainly from a mechanical standpoint, he’s working on his direction to the baseball,” Denker said. “Just trying to create a more consistent path. We have a couple of drills that we’ve been doing in the cages to help him do that. It’s been working really well.”

The other big adjustment that Beer had to make was adapting to a new organization after being dealt by the Astros to the D-backs in the Zack Greinke trade that came down just minutes before the July 31 trade deadline. Once he got over the initial shock, Beer said he was just excited to get going with the D-backs and their organization. It also didn’t take long for him to realize that he’d have a clearer path to the big leagues in Arizona than he would have had in the stacked Houston farm system.

“It sunk in right off the bat,” Beer said. “I’d be lying to you if I said it didn’t. I felt that this is a great opportunity for me in my career. I’m excited to be coming up with a team that has a lot of young talent.”

Still, the shock of joining a new organization after envisioning himself someday making the major leagues with the Astros took a while to wear off, but he’s now content with where he’s at with the D-backs.

“All of that is behind me,” Beer said. “This is my team, this is the organization I’m representing, and I’m just happy to be here.”

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2019 Bowman NEXT Series Giveaway: Salt River Rafters

NOTES

— The annual Fall Stars Game, presented by Bowman Baseball Cards, will take place this Saturday, Oct. 12, beginning at 5 pm MST at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz. Live coverage of the game will be streamed on mlb.com.

Mesa Solar Sox outfielder Jo Adell (Angels) was named the AFL’s hitter of the week after posting a .462/.500/.765 slash line with one long home run. Peoria Javelinas righthander Penn Murfee (Mariners) earned honors as the pitcher of the week after throwing two four-inning stints in which he allowed only one earned run and struck out 11 batters in eight innings.

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