Prospect Outlook: Tyler Austin
**In this series will be taking a look at the ten best Yankees prospects in our opinion. Feel free to give us your opinions as well, we love a good discussion, especially when it comes to the Yankees future.**
Tyler Austin exploded onto the scene in 2011 and made quickly climbed the New York Yankees’ as well as many MLB prospects lists. Austin came to the Yankees in the 13th round of the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft and he’s played well beyond his draft position in his short career. Originally drafted as a catcher, the club moved him to corner infield positions, then eventually to the outfield. The point being, with Jesus Montero (at the time), Austin Romine, and Gary Sanchez all ahead of him on the catching depth chart, the Yankees didn’t want him blocked (no pun intended). I think they made a wise choice.
To give you an idea of how fast Austin has climbed, last year Baseball America ranked him 20th in the system (this was before the Montero/Pineda trade). After raking in the minors last season, he has improved his stock to #4 in the system as well as getting the “Best Hitter for Average” and “Best Batting Prospect in the South Atlantic League (A)” designations from the publication. He spent 2012 in parts of four leagues, Rookie ball, A, A+, and AA and at each stop he had ridiculous numbers.
Take for instance, in A ball playing for the Charleston Riverdogs, he hit .320/.405/.598 in 309 PAs. He was moved up to A+ ball playing for the Tampa Yankees and he continued hitting (.321/.385/.478 in 148 PAs). Finally, he was challenged by being moved up to Trenton to play for the Thunder in AA ball where he hit .286/.375/.286 in only eight PAs, but it’s likely where he’ll start the season in 2013.
Scouts have marveled at his advanced approach at the plate. He’ll work counts and use the entire field, as well as having some pop to his pull field. He has decent speed, with good instincts and his arm is his best defensive attribute. While the first and third base positions at the major league level are taken for a few years to come — Austin is still a good 2-3 years from hitting the majors — he’ll likely be worked heavily in the outfield in the coming years, as the Yankees current outfield will be without Curtis Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki after 2014.
However, Mark Newman, vice president of baseball operations, said they’ve explored moving Austin back to the hot corner in an interview with Chad Jennings of The Journal News last month:
"“He’s a better defender in right. But (putting him back at third) is something we’ve thought about. It’s a possibility.”"
An aggressive approach by the Yankees, and if Austin can sustain his current tear through the minors, the Yankees might just have a solid, young (only age 21) homegrown talent to go along with Brett Gardner in the outfield or to take the reigns from Alex Rodriguez at third base.