Putting last year's disappointing season behind him, Austin got off to a solid start this year when he hit .260 with ten doubles and four home runs for Double-A Trenton. That's not even mentioning the fact that he drew 30 walks in just 50 games before earning a promotion to Scranton.
Tearing the cover off the ball even more now, Austin has collected 137 at-bats in Triple-A Scranton so far and is putting up great numbers, hitting .307 with a ridiculous 26 extra-base hits in just 37 games played, including ten home runs.
“Just staying with a consistent approach,” Austin said about his great start in Triple-A, "every single at-bat and not getting away from that.”
Last season was the complete opposite for Austin as he slashed .235/.309/.311 in 264 Triple-A at-bats, obviously not the numbers Austin wanted but that in hindsight that taste of Triple-A did help Austin this year.
“It helped me out a little bit, just getting me prepared on what to expect this year," he said. "But the biggest thing for me is staying within myself and keeping a consistent approach."
When he was sent down to Double-A Trenton last year he was managed by his current manager Al Pedrique. Pedrique has seen therefore seen Austin at his lowest and now at his highest.
“When we got him last year [in Trenton] I just told him, I know it's hard for you,” Pedrique said about what he told Austin when he was sent down. “At that time he was playing well, but numbers-wise [roster size] he had to come down.
"[I told him] 'you’re healthy, you need some at-bats, you need playing time, but sitting somewhere else being the fourth outfielder [and] playing once or twice a week is not going to help you'. His approach, the way he handled it, I give him a lot of credit because he has done nothing but work every day. “
Austin was drafted in the 13th round in the 2010 draft out of Heritage High school as a then catcher turned third baseman before eventually settling into the outfield years later. But times have changed and due to the injuries of Greg Bird, Mark Teixeira and Chris Parmalee, Austin is primarily the first basemen for the Railriders this year.
“It’s been good,” Austin said about the transition to first base. “I’m enjoying it over there. I enjoy working at first base.”
Austin played got his feet wet at first base during the 2013 season. He started to play first again this winter in the Arizona fall league and spent time at first base in Trenton earlier this season.
“Learning to do things around the bag I think is the most difficult,” Austin said about the challenges of learning how to play first base. “It looks easy but it’s really not.”
“I feel good about it,” Manager Al Pedrique said about Austin's move to first base. “He’s shown a lot of improvement since the last time I had him… the key is he’s healthy and he knows he’s going to be in the lineup every day.
"In the past he missed a lot of time because he was hurt but now at first base it seems like he’s comfortable making the transition. Day in and day out he’s working very hard and it seems as the season goes on he’s getting better.”
Austin is a powerful right-handed hitter but he isn’t a dead pull hitter either. Austin has more home runs and hits to right and center field than he does to left field. Since his call up to Triple-A on June 4 he has six home runs to right field.
“Yeah I’d say so, trying to direct my approach more toward center and right-center field,” Austin answered when asked if his approach is hitting up the middle.
Earlier in the week Austin hit an opposite field home run on a 2-0 pitch, a pitch that most batters would try to pull in that situation but not Austin.
“That’s one thing he likes to do drive the ball up the middle, hit with authority,” Pedrique said about Austin’s approach at the plate. “His hands are quick enough where he will react to the inside pitch. He talked to him about it earlier because he was concerned he wasn’t hitting enough to left field and I told him stick with it they will come….. He has so much power to right-center.”
That type of swing and approach could translate beautifully in Yankee Stadium. Showing everyone how times have changed in rather dramatic fashion from just a year ago, Austin has moved up the prospect power rankings this season and has even earned a potential call-up at some point this year.