Rosters for the Arizona Fall League have been announced by MLB and the Yankees will be sending three prospects out west as part of the Scottsdale Scorpions. Outfield prospects Mason Williams and Tyler Austin will join catching prospect Peter O'Brien on the Scorpions as the Yankees representatives. The AFL has mainly been a place where prospects at any level of the minor leagues can go to get some extended work in after the regular minor league season is over. The extra time presents a chance to have a prospect make up for lost time or work on something new.
After experiencing a few injuries this season, including being currently on the disabled list, Austin will likely be one of the prospects hoping to use the AFL to make up for lost time. If the Yankees are serious about his progression through the levels of the minor leagues, and it appears that they are, they will want him to be ready for the next step come spring training 2014. In addition to making up for lost time, the Yankees are reportedly going to have him try his hand at first base while in Arizona. After being drafted as a catcher and moved to third base before ultimately finding a spot in the outfield, Austin doesn't have a true defensive home. It doesn't hurt for the team to try to see where he can stick, particularly if they view him as the prospect closest to the major leagues.
Williams missed a chunk of the 2012 season after an injured shoulder required season-ending surgery. His 2013 return with the Tampa Yankees didn't really go as planned for one of the Yankees' top prospects after he struggled offensively most of the season. Likely because of the injuries to the Trenton Thunder outfield, Williams was recently promoted to Double-A out of more necessity than merit. The struggles at the plate haven't subsided, so it's likely that the team wants him to go to Arizona to work out whatever has him in such a funk with the bat. Perhaps encouraging results will make the team feel like they can start him out in Trenton next season, since nothing Williams has done this year really indicates that he has mastered the High-A level.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Williams, O'Brien has done nothing but hit all season between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa. His inclusion on the AFL roster is likely because of his defensive shortcomings. Few people believe he has the skills to stick behind the plate as a catcher, and he's played a good chunk of games at third base for Tampa, even after Gary Sanchez's promotion to Tampa. O'Brien has been a butcher in the field, particularly at third base, having committed 16 errors in 57 games since he was promoted. If the Yankees want him to stick at the hot corner or catcher, he's going to have to make strides defensively. Perhaps some extra time in the AFL can help him inch a little closer to where they want him to be.