[This first report was published in February of 2012 after Austin's first minor league season]
The Yankees drafted third baseman Tyler Austin in the 13th round of the 2010 MLB Draft out of Heritage High School in Georgia. He broke his hand just two games into his debut season that year but bounced back in a huge way in his first full season with the Gulf Coast League and Staten Island Yankees.
Name: Tyler Austin
Position: Third Baseman/First Baseman
DOB: September 6, 1991
"I think the year went great, honestly," he said. "I was real happy with the year I had and I'm looking forward to another big year this next year. It was a lot of hard work.
"I can say I put a lot of extra work in after practices this past year. After games I'd go out there and hit in the cages if I wasn't pleased with my day or past few days. I put in a lot of extra work during practices too and that helped me out a lot last year."
The hard work certainly paid off as he hit a combined .354 with 18 doubles, six home runs, and 18 stolen bases [without getting caught] between the Gulf Coast League and Staten Island Yankees.
A physically imposing figure, he credits his first-year success with his ability to mature mentally more than anything. He approached every single at-bat with a solid approach and never deviated from his plan.
"I changed my approach a little bit [from the year before]. I'd tell myself to hit the ball off the right side of the batter's eye. Every time I went up there [to the batter's box] I had that mindset and I kind of thought something in my head that helped me out a lot.
"One of the guys on the team helped me out with it, a little saying that we had when I went up to bat that kept me focused on what I had to do: ‘short, smooth, and lethal'. That's what I thought when I went up there. It sounds kind of corny but it helped me out a lot."
To have that kind of success right out of the gate after essentially having to sit out his debut season with the injury might have come as a surprise to some, but Austin says he wasn't too shocked with his performance.
"Not really but to an extent I guess I did," he said. "I knew I was capable of going out there and having a big year. Maybe I was a little surprised but not too much.
"[Stealing bases like I did] was a surprise to me. Once I had a few of them I decided I felt comfortable stealing so I decided when I got the chance that I was going. It did surprise me a little bit but not too much."
Offensively he had as productive a season as Yankee farmhand had in 2011 but it's his defensive work at both third and first base that continues to be a work in progress.
"It doesn't really matter [which position]," he said. "I've come a long way at first and third. I'd say I'm a little more comfortable at third but I still feel really good at first base as well."
Improving his range and getting better at both the back-hand and short-hops plays are areas he still needs to improve, and he realizes further developing on the defensive side will be a deciding factor in just how far his overall game goes.
"Probably all of it, honestly, especially going from right to left and side to side, I need to work on that a good bit. That's honestly the biggest thing but overall I have to get better at every aspect of it."
It's not as if he isn't making progress, however, on that side of the ball.
"He made great progress at third," Staten Island manager Tommy Slater said. "Really, from Spring Training through Extended, his first month down there in the GCL and into Staten Island, he made great progress.
"He's very athletic. He can run too. He's a big guy but he's got good base running instincts. His stolen bases [in] the GCL and Staten Island combined, I think he got thrown out once because he's got such good feel of reading pitchers and he gets good jumps.
"That's a big, strong, right-handed power bat who has some athleticism, and the base running was really impressive. Defensively I think he's made some great improvement at third base."
Often compared to current Yankee third base prospect Brandon Laird for his offensive potential and defensive limitations, Austin realizes he may not hit over .350 again but he knows what will be a successful year for him in his second full season.
"The biggest thing for me is improving my defensive skills. If I can go out there and have a great defensive year – of course I want to go out there and hit – I just want to improve the defensive stuff and just get better overall in every aspect of the game," Austin concluded.
Batting and Power. Austin employs a short, compact stroke with good bat speed to aggressively attack pitches and hit line drives from center to right field. Not an overly patient batter, drawing walks is not goal at the plate but he still employs excellent strike zone discipline. He has tremendous pull power when he attacks mistake pitches, but his plan is more about hitting the pitches where they're thrown and he is adept at putting the ball in play.
Base Running and Speed. Austin has some decent wheels for a bigger corner infielder, exemplified by his 18 stolen bases and 100 percent success rate in 2011. However, while that could remain a part of his short-term game in the coming years, he doesn't project to be that kind of impact runner down the road but could be a good candidate to be a low double-digit stolen base threat in his prime.
Defense. His defensive game lags far behind his offensive game at this point. He shows some agility and good arm strength at third base, but his lateral range in particular needs more work as does his experience in handling the slow-roller plays. The basic athleticism is there to be a decent third baseman down the road but he might be better served playing first base or even some left field long-term.
Projection. The comparisons to Brandon Laird are legitimate; he has very good power, especially to the pull side, he is a good contact hitter who is very aggressive earlier in the counts, and he has some work to do defensively to find a permanent home in the field. He shows a bit better plate discipline at similar stages in their careers, however, leading some scouts to believe he could be a better on-base guy should he show a bit more patience and make drawing walks a priority. He is also a bit more athletic at a similar age so there is some hope that he can make the progress needed defensively at third. He has middle of the order big league potential but he is going to have to continue to hit his way up the minor league ladder.
ETA. 2015. Austin has certainly played his way into the long-season leagues in 2012. He should be a mainstay in the Charleston RiverDogs lineup this coming season.
[This second scouting report section was published back in February of this year]
Batting and Power. Though his batting averages in recent seasons [he's been a .259 hitter between Double-A and Triple-A] might exactly be overwhelming proof, Austin does have the ability to be a solid hitter for average, even a high-average hitter when he's going right. He has superb bat speed, a very patient approach at the plate, good pitch recognition, and solid plate discipline when he's not trying to do too much. That last part has been Austin's biggest downfall as of late; he has failed trying to make up for lost time due to injuries by trying too hard. He has above average power potential right now to all fields and even plus power potential to pull-side so he can be susceptible to trying to muscle up to make better use of his power and as a result he can have a hard time laying off of better breaking pitches outside of the strike zone. He's at his best when he is taking what the pitchers give him and uses the whole field to hit line drives from foul pole to foul pole, and not trying to pull every pitch 400 feet down the left field line. As he has shown for long stretches in his career he has the natural approach and power to be a true impact and consistent hitter but he must remain constant with his patience in order to do so.
Base Running and Speed. Austin is far from a burner. In fact, his speed is merely average overall and perhaps just a click above average for a corner guy but he can have an impact running the bases. He shows real intelligence running the bases and employs an aggressive running style overall, especially stealing bases. He is an above average station to station runner and a solid stolen base threat [his career success rate is still a whopping 89 percent], one who can annually chip in with 10-20 stolen bases when he's getting on base at a consistent rate. He a power hitter who can steal his fair share of bases and that's a bit of a rarity in today's game.
Defense. The former high school catcher who transitioned to third base initially before finally settling out in the corner outfield spots has quickly morphed into a very reliable defensive player. He has the above average arm strength to play right field, shows an accurate arm, and has average or better range for a corner outfield spot. All of it spells at least an average big league defensive corner outfielder but his tenacity and all-out hustle style of play can allow him to make above average plays at times too. He's a solid defensive option.
Projection. Austin has all of the physical and mental tools to not only still have the ceiling of an everyday big league starting corner outfielder but one whose ceiling is considerably higher than that too. A plus-plus makeup guy, one who overcame testicular cancer as a teenager, Austin has the above average power potential, average or better speed and defensive abilities, and hitting foundation in place to be a true impact player in every phase of the game. However, lost time with injury problems in recent seasons and a resulting pressing at the plate have derailed what is an otherwise natural ability to be a consistent hitter. He and the Yankees are hoping that it's just a temporary derailment and that he will get back to his natural approach of being patient, not pressing, taking what the pitchers give him, and using the whole field again by hitting line drives from gap to gap. The ability is there, it's just a matter of doing it again.
ETA. 2016. Set to begin his sixth full professional season, the former 40-man roster player is now at a pivotal point in his career. Where he begins the 2016 season is not nearly as important as where he finishes it. Whether he begins the season back where he ended last year [in Double-A Trenton] or not, he should see ample Triple-A playing time and he'll need to resurrect his consistent hitting ways relatively quickly if he's to remain a viable internal option for the Yankees. His time in pinstripes will be growing short if he doesn't.