Dylan Beavers braced himself for a slog. High school and college seasons lasted only a few months and were centered in the spring. His first year of pro ball included all of 23 games.
A full year was bound to be taxing on his body, especially for a California native who has spent a humid Mid-Atlantic summer at High-A Aberdeen.
Except that’s not how it worked out.
“It wasn’t as bad as I thought,” Beavers said recently before an IronBirds game. “I’d say that’s a good thing. I feel like I’m in good shape. I feel like I got stronger as the season went on. I don’t think there’s any bad surprises so far.”
His production suggests a steady progression at Aberdeen. Beavers capped a fruitful July with a three-hit outing Sunday against Jersey Shore. For the month, he slashed .397/.494/.691 with four homers and 18 RBIs.
Beavers, the No. 33 pick in last year’s draft, is hitting .270 for the year, the highest it has been since April 27th. A severe dip followed as he tinkered with his swing and tried to make adjustments where he felt they were needed.
But mostly, his May malaise (.195/.280/.253 with five extra-base hits in 87 at-bats) was a function of information overload.
“Every time I was up in the box, I wasn’t necessarily thinking about the at bat,” Beavers said. “I was thinking about mechanical stuff. That made it even harder. You’re kind of out before you even get in the box.
“I like instruction. I want to get better. But if everything’s thrown at you at once, especially in the middle of the season, it’s kind of tough to get those to translate to in-game at bats. There was a point where I was like, ‘All right, just simplify. I’m trying to make baseball way harder than it is.’ It’s the same thing I did in college.”
One of the measuring sticks of success for any prospect is working through the challenges baseball offers over a five-to-six-month span. Beavers did it while working on a swing that has long been unorthodox, dating back at least to his days at California.
Early in the season, he said he was a lot stiffer and more crouched in his stance. Mechanically, it worked, but there was no rhythm. So he returned to a more upright approach, but also tried to pair it with one of his offseason endeavors: Keeping his hips from drifting toward the plate.
He got away with it in college, where the competition level was more forgiving. But he knew it was a priority to adapt in the pros.
“I’d go nine inches toward home plate, and most guys are zero or negative-one,” Beavers said. “Their hips are going [the opposite] way. That was kind of the main fix that I did. It’s really translated. I think it’s helped me a lot on different pitches, especially cutters and stuff moving in.”
The left-handed hitting outfielder has shown year-over-year growth from both his initial taste of pro ball (between the Florida Complex League, Single-A Delmarva and Aberdeen last year) and his work in the Pac-12 at Cal.
One number that jumps off the page is his 20 steals in 26 attempts. He had just 17 in 123 college games.
“I was always fast and I knew I was fast at Cal,” Beavers said. “It was just a different situation. It wasn’t minor league baseball. It was a 55-game season, every game counted and I didn’t want to take the bat out of someone’s hands. I feel like here it’s more development-oriented, so I can actually work on stealing bases and there’s not really as much repercussion if you fail.”
It’s also notable that his slugging percentage (.459) is almost identical to his brief effort in the minors last year (.460). In 2022, he didn’t homer in 87 at-bats. This year, he has nine.
That’s more in line with what he accomplished at Cal, where he hit 18 homers as sophomore in 2021 and went deep 17 times last year.
“I was hitting balls hard last year. I wasn’t hitting homers, but I hit some balls 106 [mph], 107-plus — on a line, off the wall,” Beavers said. “I wasn’t worried if I had the ability to hit it over. It was just fixing that launch and get a little more air under it. I wasn’t nervous about it. I knew everyone said to keep swinging and it will start showing up and that’s kind of what I’ve done.”
It’s also an effective way of summing up the entire season for the 21-year-old. It took some time, but he made the necessary alterations. And as it’s turned out, he was more than ready for his first full year of pro ball.