Prospect Profile: RF Tyler Austin
6’ 2” 200 lbs. R/R
Drafted 2010, 13th Round
Tyler Austin, originally a catcher, was drafted as the 415th overall pick in the 2010 draft and hit the ground running as a 19 year old. He lasted all of 82 AB’s in the short season GCL, where he put up a 1.060 OPS and another 96 AB’s in the NY Penn League where he put up a quad slash of .323/.402/.542/.944, hitting a trio of home runs in each league. While in short season leagues Tyler was used at both infield corners, which wouldn’t last long. In 2011 Austin was shipped to Charleston, where he took over right field to give way to fellow RoverDog Dante Bichette Jr. at third base. Low A ball proved to be no match for him either; he ripped up the Sally League to the tune of a 1.003 OPS, good for a .442 wOBA, 170 wRC+, 12.3% BB rate and 22% K rate. His 14 HR’s, 22 2B’s and 3 3B’s earned him the best hitting prospect in the SAL award, along with the #4 overall ranking. He punched his own ticket to Tampa, but it was set back a bit when he took a pitch to the helmet and sat for a couple of weeks recovering. It was terrible timing too, as he was set to represent the Dogs in their home park for the SAL All Star game and home run derby. Tyler managed to get 134 AB’s in at the Florida State League, hitting to the tune of a .391 wOBA and 144 wRC+. He did undergo a bit of a power outage however, his ISO dropping from .278 in low A to .157 in Tampa. Both his walk and strikeout rates dropped as well, to 8.1% and 18.9% respectively. Despite the dropoff in power numbers, Tyler was sent to Trenton at the very end of the season, getting himself 7 AB’s in regular season play and a trip to the playoffs with the Thunder where he picked up a few more.
We might as well start here, as this is what is going to carry him to the majors. It all starts with a short stride, a small leg kick and getting his lead foot down quickly. He loads up in a hurry and stays back on the ball, clearing his hips early generating a lot of power through his lower half. His compact swing and easy bat speed allow him to let the ball travel into the zone and choose his pitch to hit. He has extremely strong hands too, which also lends to his ability to wait on his pitch and lay off the junk. Tyler is a line drive hitter that shows power to all fields and has the ability to generate plenty of lift. His swing stays on a single plane, which some say may give him trouble with pitches high or low in the zone but he has plenty of time to work on it. On the other hand it shows consistency in his mechanics, but he’ll still need to be able to make the adjustments during his swing. He looks to go with the pitch, and altered his approach a bit in 2011, aiming for the right of the batters eye. His focus is to stay short, smooth and lethal he says, utilizing the entire field and not fighting the pitch. Like many of his fellow sluggers he looks to punish anything middle outside, but he can also pull the inside stuff with big time power. Pitchers may start to try and beat him in on the hands, but his strength and bat speed should be enough to allow him to turn on them and put the ball in play, if not out of the yard. He’s aggressive early in the count, makes solid contact and can draw his walks, but could put up an even better OBP if he focused on it. His potential is that of a middle of the order hitter that puts up a solid average as well as plenty of power.
On the Field:
Getting moved to the outfield to make room for Bichette was pretty fortunate. It turns out that his defense plays up better in right field than any other position he’s been at. As far as the wheels are concerned, he’s somewhat lacking as his raw speed grades out at a 40 out of 80 which puts him just below average. He’s not going to get any faster and could actually lose a step as he finishes filling out. This does come a bit puzzling however, as he is adept at swiping bags. He’s nabbed 23 bases in 25 attempts, which in part can be attributed to the opposing pitchers and catchers but it also points to his ability to pick his spots and get a good jump. He’s been clocked in the 4.4-4.5 second range to first, but expect his SB numbers to fall as he faces better batteries on the mound and behind the plate. I wouldn’t count him out completely though, and wouldn’t be surprised to see him take advantage of lesser opponents. His agility and athleticism are average and he shows good instincts in the field and a high baseball IQ which makes up for his lack of blazing speed. He gets good reads on the ball from right field and makes the plays you would expect him to along with a few you might be surprised at. His arm is strong and fairly accurate which plays just fine in the right corner. Overall he’s a tick above average at his current position. There have been talks that they could move him back to the hot corner, but the organization agrees that his skills play best in RF.
Like his ability to drive an outside fastball into the cheap seats, his drive and determination does not leave for wanting. Despite his early success Tyler continues to work hard and improve on the previous day. When asked about his 2011 season he had this to say: “I can say I put a lot of extra work in after practices last year, if I wasn’t pleased with my day or past few days. I put in a lot of work….” He is known to be mentally strong and tenacious as well as a leader on the team. He’s willing to put in every bit of work that it takes and so far that work is paying off.
There’s really nothing to not like about the guy. He could show a bit more patience at the plate, draw some more walks and strike out less but you can say that about 98% of the guys out there. The good news is that he has the physical tools to allow him to do just that. For him it’s a matter of approach and the ability to make the adjustments as he moves up the levels. Assuming he remains in the OF he grades out as an above average fielder and he certainly has the bat to carry a corner outfield spot. He has the instincts and a high IQ that allows his tools in the field to play up a bit, and that kind of stuff you just can’t teach. A strong makeup has been a focus of the Yankee brass the last couple of years as they feel it allows a player to take things to another level, and Tyler has what they look for. Mike Newman of fangraphs wrote that there is no player in the Yankee system with a higher ceiling, that Austin profiles as a solid average regular with room for a bit more, and that he’s the safest bet to hit for average and power as an every day starter. Despite lacking in certain categories, his acuity and “want” as Jason Parks likes to say, can help carry him to that next level. That big bat he carries doesn’t hurt either. Look for Austin to either start out at or be knocking on the door to Trenton in 2013, on schedule to make an appearance in the majors in 2014.