2015 Statistics: .240/.315/.343, 6 HR, 35 RBI, 11 SB, 385 PA
2015 Level/Roster Status: Triple-A/Double-A/Non-40
After being drafted by the Yankees in 2010, Tyler Austin had a breakout season in 2012 when he worked his way up from Low-A Charleston to Double-A Trenton and slashed .322/.400/.559. Unfortunately, he has not been able to replicate that performance over the past few seasons. He spent time in 2013 on the disabled list with a wrist injury that he couldn't shake until the 2014 season started. When he finally got healthy, Austin was able to improve upon his 2013 performance, slashing .275/.336/.419 in Trenton last year, but his 2015 season took a turn for the worse.
If there was ever a year when Austin had a chance to break into the majors, this year would have been it. The Yankees brought up several backup outfielders throughout the season, including Ramon Flores, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott. Flores ended up being traded to the Mariners, and Williams and Heathcott both suffered injuries, so Austin could have found his way to the majors if he hadn't put together such a dreadful season. Austin started the season in Triple-A and struggled pretty mightily, batting just .235/.309/.311 in 299 plate appearances. In his defense, he did miss a few weeks with a hip injury in mid-June. Austin hit so poorly in Scranton that the organization demoted him back to Trenton in August. He did show some improvement there, raising his triple slash to .260/.337/.455, but he didn't hit well enough to earn a spot on the team when rosters expanded in September. In fact, in order to make room on the Yankees' 40-man roster, the team opted to designate Austin for assignment. They risked losing a once highly touted prospect, but Austin cleared waivers and was optioned back to Double-A where he ended the season.
Moving forward, Austin might only be useful if he turns into a utility player. The team did experiment with having him play first and third last season, but he stuck to outfield and DH roles this season. Assuming that Austin is still in the Yankees' organization in the spring, it's unclear whether he would start the season in Trenton or Scranton. He's clearly dropped out of the Yankees' favor, and the team isn't lacking in outfield depth. At this point, Heathcott, Williams, Jake Cave and Ben Gamel have all moved ahead of Austin. The Yankees did decide to send Austin to play in the Arizona Fall League, but that was only after Eric Jagielo suffered a knee injury, and Austin replaced him on the roster. He has played in three games in the AFL so far, and he's collected three hits, including a double. His performance in the AFL might just determine whether the Yankees keep him around next season.