Once unanimously regarded as a top-five prospect in the Yankees organization and the 77th best prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America just two years ago, 24-year old Tyler Austin now finds himself entering a make-or-break year with the Bombers in 2016.
Austin began his 2015 campaign in Triple-A Scranton and struggled mightily in his first taste of the International League. In 73 games with the RailRiders, the 2010 13th round pick hit just .235 with 4 homers and 27 RBI with an 81/63 strike-out/hit margin.
The Yankees demoted Austin back down to Double-A Trenton in August with hopes that he would rediscover the stroke that made him one of the premiere prospects in the system. Instead, Austin was designated for assignment after hitting .260 with 2 homers and 8 RBI in 21 games for the Thunder.
Austin was summoned to the Arizona Fall League this past October to make-up for lost at-bats and he showed good signs of improvement heading into the winter. Austin hit 3 homers and drove in 7 runs in 81 at-bats and stole 7-of-10 bases in 21 games for Surprise.
The versatile Austin exploded onto the scene in 2012 and was named the Yankees Minor League Player of the Year after posting one of the best seasons the organization has ever seen. In 110 games, Austin hit .322 with 35 doubles, six triples, 17 homers and 80 RBI to go along with 23 stolen bases between the GCL Yankees, Low-A Charleston, High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton.
In his first full season in the minor leagues upper levels in 2013, Austin had his season with Trenton derailed by a wrist injury that forced him to miss significant time and affected his ability to swing the bat upon his return. In just 83 games with Trenton, Austin hit .257 with 6 homers and 40 RBI.
Austin began 2014 back in Trenton and struggled early on as he continued to recover from the nagging wrist injury. After that tough stretch, Austin went on to hit .300 in the second half of the season with 20 doubles and ultimately ended his solid bounce-back campaign with a .275 average to go along with 6 dingers and 47 RBI.
Throughout his career Austin has seen extended time at all four corner spots between the infield and outfield which has added to his value. Austin has a strong throwing arm and has been praised for the routes that he takes to the balls in the outfield and he is regarded as an adequate defender at first base.
The Yankees hope that a fully healthy wrist and a renewed confidence will allow Austin to fulfill the promise that the organization had for him not too long ago. With a log jam of outfielders ticketed for both Triple and Double-A, it is likely that Austin will primarily be used at first base in 2016.