For this edition of the 2014 Staten Island Yankees’ prospect profile, we are going to keep the focus on a player who was drafted two years ago by the team. Austin Aune, originally a shortstop from Argyle High School, in Texas, was drafted in the second round of the 2012 MLB Draft with the 89th pick.
In his first year on Staten Island, the right fielder told me in an interview I had with him before Saturday night’s win vs. Jamestown about how his first month has been in Staten Island after two years in the Gulf Coast League.
“It’s been a big transition coming from the GCL to playing night games,” replied Aune. “It’s been really fun. It’s been awesome playing in front of big crowds.”
Aune had a big decision to make at the time of the MLB Draft, considering he had committed to Texas Christian University (TCU) to be the Horned Frogs’ new quarterback. When I talked to Aune about his decision to solely pursue baseball in the interview I had with him before Saturday’s game, he told me the decision was tough, but he knew once the Yankees called, what his decision would ultimately be:
“I was at TCU going thru football workouts when I got the call from my agent saying the Yankees are going to offer you the $1 million. Do you want to take it or not?,” said Aune. “I could not pass up an opportunity like that, especially with an organization like the Yankees. I thought it was a great honor.”
He would later add about his decision that “baseball has always been my dream.” When drafted by the Yankees, Aune thought about “how awesome would it be to be the starting shortstop of the New York Yankees, but starting outfielder would be just the same.”
In 2013, Aune struggled in the Gulf Coast League, hitting just .192 in 41 games with no home runs and 12 RBI’s. This season, he is currently hitting .229 with one home run and 11 RBI’s. While his average is only up to .229 on the season, he has surpassed his doubles total from last year (nine). His ten doubles are third on the team behind Isaias Tejeda and Ty McFarland. This includes a recent stretch of five doubles in his last ten games.
“I’m just seeing the ball good. Consistency with my swing like I’m working on,” said Aune about his recent hot stretch at the plate. “I’m seeing results and I’ve been happy with them.”
Aune played shortstop in high school, but was drafted by the organization as an outfielder. He played shortstop down in the Gulf Coast in 2012, but made 15 errors in 31 games. In the last two seasons, Aune has played the outfield positions, mainly right field and the occasional centerfielder. As of Monday night, he has only made two errors in 29 games this season here on Staten Island.
“It was really an easy transition. I feel my abilities are better suited for the outfield,” remarked Aune about his position change. “It’s pretty natural out there. It’s been fun.”
This is a sentiment that his manager, Mario Garza, also echoed after Saturday night’s game, adding:
“He’s a really good athlete. Anybody that has a scholarship offer to play quarterback at a D-1 School like Texas Christian, the guy is a good athlete. It’s not really surprising to me that he can go from a shortstop position to the outfield and do well based on his athletic ability.”
For Aune, who told me that his favorite players are Derek Jeter and Josh Hamilton, one of the things he has to work on are the strikeouts. His 42 strikeouts by far lead the team, with the next highest Baby Bomber only having 30 (Christopher Breen). Plus, he has 23 strikeouts in 16 games this month. That being said, there has been improvement from the right fielder in July, hitting .250 this month, 46 points higher than his June batting average of .204.
Another improvement that he is looking to make the rest of the season is “the consistency with the swing, not swinging at balls, and driving the ball.”
Staten Island finished this recent homestand at 5-1 and Aune told me that he felt the team was coming together and getting acclimated with everyone after their 3-3 road trip against the Lowell Spinners and State College Spikes, one of the best teams in the New York Penn-League.
It will be interesting to see what Aune does the rest of the way. At just 20 years old, the talent is definitely there, with 12 of his 27 hits being for extra-bases this season. With more games in the outfield, the Yankees will get to see if Aune can live up to that second round slot that they drafted him at two years ago