The New York Yankees promoted outfield prospect Tyler Austin to the major league roster today. He hit a home run in his first major league at-bat, setting an example followed a minute later by fellow rookie Aaron Judge. Let's take a look at what Austin offers.
Tyler Austin was drafted by the Yankees in the 13th round in 2010 from high school in Conyers, Georgia. He destroyed rookie ball in 2011 (.354/.418/.579) but his physical tools were nothing special and he wasn't taken terribly seriously as a prospect by some observers until he blasted through A-ball in 2012 (.322/.400/.559 between Low-A and High-A). At that point he was considered one of the best prospects in the system and I gave him a Grade B+ entering 2013.
He suffered through hand and wrist problems that season, cutting into his power production and resulting in a disappointing .257/.344/.373 mark in 319 at-bats in Double-A. His 2014 season was a little better at .275/.336/.419, but the wrist reportedly continued to nag at him and his overall production was a far cry from 2011 and 2012. 2015 was a further disappointment at .235/.309/.311 in Triple-A, his power seemingly abandoning him completely. Again, nagging injuries were an issue.
By the end of 2015, Austin's prospect stock was at a low ebb. The Yankees out-righted him off the 40-man roster and no other teams were interested. He opened 2016 back with Double-A Trenton where he continued to hit just so-so at .260/.367/.395 through early June.
On June 4th the Yankees promoted Austin to Triple-A to cover a lineup hole. Austin started strong and remained strong through June, July, and August, hitting .323/.415/.637 in 201 at-bats with 13 homers, 32 walks, and 59 strikeouts in 201 at-bats. This is the most sustained stretch of success for him since 2012. This is the player the Yankees thought they were getting back before injuries struck.
A right-handed hitter and thrower listed at 6-2, 220, Austin is age 24, born September 6th, 1991. He is not a toolsy player; his running speed and arm strength are nothing special. Defensively he is limited to left field or first base.The bat is the key here. When he's going well Austin shows an impressive eye for the strike zone along with power to all fields.
During his 2014-2015 struggles the ball just didn't seem to jump off his bat with authority very often, due to some combination of injuries and mechanical issues. Back in '12 he was renowned for a short, powerful swing, but his swing looked longer and more awkward during the dark times, and he didn't have the speed or defense to keep clubs interested without the bat.
He seems back to his old self now. We'll have to see if that remains true against major league pitching, but he's still just 24. It was premature to give up on him in the first place.
Here's the best moment of Austin's baseball life.