The Yankees should put all of their trust into Tyler Austin heading into the 2018 season because he has all of the talent in the world to put into work.
When Tyler Austin was first called up in 2016, he started his career out with a big bang when he and Aaron Judge hit back to back home runs in their first major league at-bats. Austin went on to hit four more home runs in just 90 plate appearances that year.
Now, in 2017, Austin has faded into obscurity in the eyes of fans due to injuries. Although those injuries have taken a lot of playing time away from Austin, I’m here to tell you not to forget about Tyler Austin.
In 2013, Austin was ranked number three on MLB Pipeline’s list of the Yankees top 30 prospects. Although that was partially due to a weak system, that’s still a very good ranking, especially for a 13th round draft pick. Currently, Austin ranks 26th on MLB Pipeline’s list for 2018. Here is their scouting report on his bat:
“Austin displays some of the best feel for hitting and bat speed among Yankees farmhands. He recognizes pitches and controls the strike zone, patiently working counts while waiting for something he can drive, employing a sound right-handed swing and using the entire field. He could be a .275 hitter with 20 homers in a full season, though he rarely has been able to stay healthy for a full season and now has no clear path to regular playing time in New York’s stacked lineup.”
That scouting report has been consistent through out his career. He has always been a smart hitter, who has power to all parts of the field. The ability to hit to all fields is what really plays in Austins’ favor. We’ve seen him have tremendous power to right field, which is huge with the short porch at Yankee Stadium.
His batted ball profiles back this up too. In his career, per Fangraphs, he has had a 36.1 pull percentage, 38.9 center percentage, and a 25 opposite percentage. If you have power, and hit the ball the opposite way 25% of the time, you’re going to hit some home runs at Yankee Stadium.
Now, if we talk about the good with Austin, we also have to talk about what has kept him from succeeding to this point. The first is injuries. Austin has had issues staying healthy since he was drafted. He has missed time at all levels due to various injuries.
Last year, Austin was in a pretty good position to win a spot until he fouled a ball off his foot before spring training. Injuries can really hurt a player like Austin, because his opportunities are already limited due to a crowded roster.
The second thing that has really hurt Austin in his time in the majors, is strikeouts. In 2016 he had a 40 K%, and in 2017, that number was 37%. Although this is a small sample size, you absolutely can not succeed in the bigs with strikeout rates that high.
Again, Austin’s sample size to this point has been small. With Greg Birds‘ injury, he will finally get his first look at extended playing time in the Bronx.
Austin may be 26, but if he can stay healthy and have a good year, there is no reason to give up on him yet. With that being said, this is Austin’s year to prove himself to the Yankees. If he does not perform, he could find himself being a free agent very soon.
While he’s still a Yankee though, don’t sleep on Tyler Austin. He just might be a much better player than you think he is.