Tyler Austin could not have begun his major league career in better fashion. It’s awfully hard to top a home run in your first big league at-bat. However bad luck and lingering injuries have plagued Austin since he laced that home run over the short porch in right field back in August of 2016.
Austin entered spring training as a potential candidate for the first base job, but after Greg Bird’s torrid spring weakened Austin’s candidacy, a foul ball off his foot shattered it. Austin suffered a fracture in his left ankle and was headed to the 60-day disabled list.
Bird would soon hit the DL as well, and Austin was forced to rehab as efficiently as possible so he could return to a team that needed a first baseman in the worst way, since Chris Carter wasn’t exactly cutting it.
Austin didn’t record a plate appearance until the end of June, when he came back and smacked a home run in a win against the White Sox, only to injure his hamstring just a day later, landing him back on the DL.
He would return again in mid-August, and would once again launch a big home run, this time off of Chris Sale.
He should have had another one off Sale in that game had he not crushed it to the deepest part of Fenway. Still, that home run got the Yankees going off a pitcher they always struggled to figure out, and led to a big win.
That was the high point for Austin in a shortened season, as he would go on to record four plate appearances in a game just two more times after his home run in Boston.
Austin saw action in the outfield in the final game of the regular season in right field, and received another injury scare when he crashed into the outfield wall, but turned out to be okay. Let’s just say it was time for his season to end so he could take a full offseason to heal and get ready for spring. He would finish his small sample size of 46 plate appearances with a batting average of .225 and an OPS of .708.
With the return of Bird down the stretch of the regular season, Austin was no longer needed at first base since Bird presented the obvious upgrade in offensive and defensive production. Austin is currently trying to find his groove in the winter leagues of the Dominican Republic.
If Austin is able to have a productive spring next season, perhaps he can find his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role. However, with a crowded outfield and Bird’s performance during the playoffs, Austin might be hard-pressed to find playing time in 2018.