2014 Statistics: .275/.336/.419, 9 HR, 8.2 BB%, 18.3 K%
2014 Level/Roster Status: Double-A/Non-40
Remember when Tyler Austin was relevant? Yeah, that was actually a long time ago at this point. Tyler Austin was never praised for his amazing tools, so what he did in 2012, when he rocketed through the system by hitting .322/.400/.559 with 17 home runs and 23 stolen bases, essentially turned him into a legitimate prospect. The problem is that when you can't follow up on a breakout season like that with another impressive year, people are going to assume it was a fluke and your value will plummet. The 2013 season turned out to be as close to a nightmare as you can get after he suffered a wrist injury that sapped him of both his power and ability to just be consistently productive. The 2014 season gave him his chance to figure things out and it was quite a...journey?
He missed almost three weeks in late-April/Early May and it was looking like injuries were going to sink his second season in a row. Through the first three months of the year, Austin hit an uninspiring .254/.324/.371 with three home runs, however he seemingly caught fire for the final two months and hit .302/.353/.483 with six home runs to close out 2014. As a whole, his season wasn't very spectacular, especially since he's been stuck in Trenton since 2012, but it was really nice to see him pick it up in the second half. Hopefully that two-month burst is the real Tyler Austin returning and he's finally over that pesky wrist injury, but once again, it's going to be another wait-and-see situation.
On the defensive end of the spectrum, Austin doesn't really provide a whole lot. He's typically considered to be caught in the middle as an outfield prospect; not enough glove for center field, not enough bat for the corners. This has led the Yankees to experiment with him at third and first. In 2014, he primarily played in right field, but he also saw the most playing time of his career at first base, making it possible that he could become a 1B-RF type player if his bat can support him enough. Going into 2015, Austin finally has his health issues behind him (maybe) and could get his ticket punched to Triple-A Scranton at some point after his late-season barrage. Given how injury-prone Mark Teixeira has become, it won't be a big surprise if Austin is added to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft this offseason.
If he's the hitter he was in July and August going forward, Tyler Austin could be a legitimate option for the Yankees at some point. Out of him, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott, he seems to be the only one of the old trio of outfield prospects that has a chance to make it at this point. He might not have the exciting tools, but he can hit when healthy, though the thing to keep an eye on is his strikeout-walk ratio and whether or not he can add any power going into his age-23 season. It's a lot of "ifs" but given the team's needs at first and right field, it's not crazy to keep Tyler Austin on your radar for the 2015 season. He's playing in the Arizona Fall League, so maybe we'll get a preview of what to expect from here on out.