LANGFANG, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 03: Hot-air balloons fly over the city during the Fifth China International Hot Air Balloon Festival on September 3, 2011 in Langfang, China. The festival starts in 2007 and attracts balloon teams from Australia, South Korea and United Kingdom. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Tyler Austin is currently raking for the Charleston RiverDogs, to the tune of a .444 average with three home runs and ten runs batted in following last night's 2-for-4 performance. I know it's early, and I know it's Single A-ball, but this start is certainly worth discussing and looking at a bit closer. For some further analysis, let's turn to someone who recently got the chance to watch Austin in person, for a first hand perspective...
There are plenty of scouting reports out there on Austin, and if you so choose, feel free to do a search on your own and dig them up. Since I'd rather give the traffic to a fellow SB Nation site, I'll direct you to John Sickels over at MinorLeagueBall.com for his brief take on Austin, and the ensuing discussion in the comments section of his Top 20 Yankee Prospects:
9) Tyler Austin, 3B, Grade B-: Borderline C+. I don't know why this guy doesn't get more attention. Polished bat for a 19-year-old, defense needs work, has stolen 18 bases without getting caught in his career so far.
Since this write-up, Austin has made the switch to the outfield, and seems to be adjusting well to his new position. That said, let's move on to the good stuff.
Mike Newman of ScoutingTheSally.com does some fantastic work, and scouted the Charleston RiverDogs (this read is HIGHLY recommended) this past weekend. He offers up an entire write-up on what he saw during the opening game over at Fangraphs, and offers up this viewpoint on Austin's performance from that game:
Right fielder Tyler Austin hit long home runs to both right and left field, showing impressive present power. However, both were on bad balls left up in the zone proving his ability to handle mistakes, but a longer look is needed to see how Austin makes adjustments to quality pitches as he beat balls from Tim Hudson into the ground. Of course an A-ball hitter facing a professional on a rehab stint who induces ground balls for a living isn’t exactly ideal to draw judgments from, but it’s the sample I have to work with.
Newman praised Austin on Saturday over on Twitter, noting his impressive bat speed and the loft on his swing. He goes on to note that Austin has been the most positive surprise during his evaluation of the RiverDogs.
So does that automatically put Tyler Austin on the Top 100 prospect radar? Not exactly. It's a good opening few weeks, and the signs are there to suggest a breakout season. Scouting reports will get around on him, and pitchers will make adjustments, and that's when we'll really see what Tyler Austin is made of as a hitter. Sure, he can beat up on A-ball pitchers, but will he see the same results at Double-A and Triple-A in the future? Only time will tell, and we can only hope he sees this success as he advances.
One skill that Austin has yet to display is his speed, and despite it being merely above average, he was a perfect 18-for-18 on steal attempts last season in 47 minor league games. It's little things like this which make him such an intriguing prospect, and there is something to be said for a guy with solid skills who comes to the park everyday and just performs, even if the initial scouting reports aren't glowing.
Tyler Austin is a good young baseball player, and despite not getting the hype of teammates Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, and Dante Bichette Jr., he's developing a well rounded skill set that may help the Yankees down the road.
Want to learn a little more about Tyler Austin? Check out this brief interview with him prior to the series with Rome this past weekend.