Tyler Austin was selected by the New York Yankees in the 13th round of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft from Heritage High School in Conyers, Georgia. He began his professional baseball career in 2010 at rookie ball with the Gulf Coast League Yankees appearing in only two games before a pitch hit him in the wrist and broke it. In 2011, Austin was again assigned to the GCL Yankees, hitting a AVG/OBP/SLG slash line of .390/.438/.622 in 82 at-bats spanning 20 games before earning a promotion to Staten Island. At Staten Island, Austin continued his hot hitting, posting a .323/.402/.542 slash line in 96 at-bats over 27 games. He hit 3 home runs at each destination last season but posted 22 RBI in the GCL compared to 14 with Staten Island.
This season, Austin was assigned to Charleston, the Yankees low-A affiliate in the South Atlantic League with several other top prospects in the Yankees system including Mason Williams, Dante Bichette, Jr., Gary Sanchez, Angelo Gumbs, Cito Culver, and Ben Gamel among others. To say that the Charleston roster is loaded with potential big league talent would be an understatement. However, among all of that talent it might be Austin who is turning the most heads with his performance thus far this year.
So far, in 2012, Austin is posting a .288/.344/.683 slash line with 12 home runs, 33 RBI, 11 doubles, and 4 triples. His 12 home runs are second only to Curtis Granderson in the entire New York Yankee organization. No other RiverDog has more than 3 home runs and his 27 extra-base hits also leads the team. To add a little icing on the cake, Austin is also 4-for-5 in stolen base attempts.
Coming into this season you would be hard pressed to find Austin on any top-ten Yankees prospects list, something that will almost certainly change next season. Austin, right now, represents the best power prospect in the Yankees system. While some other prospects might grade higher in the power department, like Gary Sanchez and Dante Bichette, Jr., Austin is emerging as a legitmate bat that could replace Nick Swisher in a couple of years, assuming the Yankees re-sign Swisher when his contract expires at the end of this season.
The only negative in Austin’s game at the moment is he is prone to strikeout. He currently has 39 strikeouts in 178 at-bats but it isn’t a pressing problem. It’s not like he is Mark Reynolds or Cody Johnson. Right now he averages just over a strikeout a game. Again, this isn’t a huge knock on Austin at all. A lot of it has to do with Austin’s ability to wait for a pitch to hit and he does have 11 walks which is a decent amount for a kid playing in only his second full year of professional baseball.
Austin, if he continues to work hard and develop on this path, should be able to provide some youth and power into a Yankee lineup in 2014 or 2015, right around the time the Yankees will probably need a lot of both. If he stays on track Tyler Austin will be appearing in the top-ten Yankee prospects list at the beginning of next season.