2016 Statistics: 107 G, 294/.392/.524, 17 HR, 78 RBI (AA/AAA)
31 G, .244/.303/.463, 5 HR, 12 RBI (MLB)
2016 Roster Status: Pre-Arbitration
Tyler Austin only spent 30 games with the Yankees in 2016, yet he was an integral part of the second-half turnaround that managed to make the team watchable once again. Although no one expected much from Austin this year, he found his way into the spotlight with some big games that ultimately made him worthy of our attention.
A top prospect back when the youth movement was still in its infancy, Austin looked like the next big thing until a wrist injury sapped his him of his strength and made him look helpless. He was removed from the 40-man roster last season and it didn’t seem like we would be hearing much from Tyler Austin anytime soon.
To his credit, even when most had forgotten him, Austin pushed his way back into the picture. He started the season in Double-A for the fourth year in a row, where he managed to hit an adequate .260/.367/.395. In June he received a promotion back up to Scranton and became someone to watch again. Austin hit .323/.415/.637 with 13 home runs, but still needed to wait his turn.
Following the trade deadline sale and release of Alex Rodriguez, Austin finally received his long-awaited call up alongside Aaron Judge. The two quickly managed to make history as the first rookies to hit back-to-back home runs in their first plate appearances. Before anyone knew it, Tyler Austin was heading to Cooperstown and hype came along with it.
Now considered a future star by some, he was lumped in with top talent like Aaron Judge. Unfortunately, nothing went as planned in the first month as he only managed to hit .167/.189/.250 in August. It seemed like his career had peaked just as it was getting started, and as promising as his debut was, this was his true talent level. However, come September, Austin’s bat came to life and he finished with a .304/.385/.630 batting line the rest of the way.
He only managed to hit five home runs in his time with the Yankees, but he made them count. Four of them came when the game was either tied or the Yankees were behind, helping to bring the team back into the game. In the last month of the season, he hit a game-tying home runs, two go-ahead home runs, and had a walk-off against the Rays.
It wasn’t all great for him, though, as he proved why he probably won’t be an everyday player going forward. His strikeout rate approached 40% in his short exposure to MLB pitching, and he struggled mightily against right-handed pitching. It could all be a product of a small sample size, but as a right-handed hitter with minimal power, Austin might ultimately end up as a platoon bat.
That’s not a bad thing, though, because this team still needs role players who can contribute when they are needed. Austin has excellent opposite field power, which will help him succeed in Yankee Stadium. He also did an admirable job at first base, given all the uncertainty around the position this season. He was no Mark Teixeira (who is?), but he looked comfortable out there and managed to make a few impressive plays of his own.
Greg Bird will return in 2017, but Austin proved to be an adequate backup ready to contribute whenever he’s needed. He can also play the outfield and, with his help, maybe the Yankees won’t be completely useless against left-handed pitching next year.