Tyler Austin to represent Yankees at Futures Game

Rosters for the 2012 Futures Game were released today (USA, World), and the only Yankees farmhand headed to Kansas City is OF Tyler Austin. The eligibility rules are quirky but I believe every club gets at least one representative but no more than two, except for the host team. That’s why three Royals were selected for the game. I thought C Gary Sanchez had a pretty strong chance of being selected, but alas.

Austin, 20, has been the farm system’s MVP this season and it’s not particularly close. He has a league-leading 14 homers with Low-A Charleston this year, and he also leads the South Atlantic League with a .475 wOBA (by 30 points), a 188 wRC+ (18 points), and a .319 ISO (52 (!) points). The actual game will be played the Sunday before the All-Star Game next month.

Scouting Tyler Austin

Outfielder Tyler Austin came into the season as my 15th ranked prospect in the organization and he currently owns a .451 wOBA in 40 games with Low-A Charleston. He’s also tied for fifth in homers (13) in all of minor league baseball. Mike Newman of FanGraphs recently got a chance to see Austin in person and called it “the best offensive display of any player [I’ve] seen in person at the minor league level.”

The 20-year-old former 13th round pick is not without his warts, however. Austin’s power all-fields power and ability to murder fastballs is very real, but Newman notes there is some concern about his swing — which is the same no matter where the pitch is located (high, low, belt-high, etc.) — and his strikeout rate, which sits at 23.1%. That’s not outrageous, but a little higher than you’d like to see at this point of his career. Newman still heaps a ton of praise on Austin, calling him a future above average regular. Make sure you check it out, it’s a quality read.

Minor Notes: Bichette, Austin, Ravel, Heathcott

The minor league season actually starts before the Major League season this year, though by just one day. Usually the bush leagues kick off like, two weeks after the big boys. Not sure what’s up with that. Anyway, here are some interesting minor league notes courtesy of Chad Jennings

  • VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed that Dante Bichette Jr. will start this season with Low-A Charleston. He’s skipping right over Short Season Staten Island. Tyler Austin will be there as well, and he’s going to play right field while Bichette gets the hot corner. I prefer that to having them share third and DH or something.
  • That Charleston team figures to be stacked, by the way. Bichette, Austin, Mason Williams, Cito Culver, Angelo Gumbs, Jose Campos, Bryan Mitchell, Ben Gamel, Evan DeLuca, and Matt Tracy should all be there. Gary Sanchez could be back for an encore as well.
  • “He’s going to be ready close to the start of the season … He came back unbelievably fast,” said Newman of Ravel Santana. The outfielder will head to SI once the season starts in June.
  • Remember when Slade Heathcott said his latest shoulder surgery will keep him out until May? He was being optimistic. Newman says he’ll be back in June. Sucks.
  • Jeremy Bleich is throwing bullpen sessions following the shoulder procedure that cost him most of 2010 and all of 2011. I have to think we’ll see him in a game at some point, assuming the surgically repaired wing holds up.

Austin, Gamel among Keith Law’s sleeper prospects

After posting his top 100 prospects list on Thursday, Keith Law followed up yesterday with a list of sleeper prospects for each team (Insider req’d). “Third baseman Tyler Austin has turned himself into a pretty good defender over there, defying earlier predictions he’d have to move to first,” said KLaw of his sleeper pick for the Yankees. “[He] has a whole-field approach to hitting with pull power right now, and runs well for his size with a perfect stolen-base record in the pros.” Austin hit a combined .354/.418/.579 between the two short season leagues last summer after being drafted as a catcher in 2010.

“Also watch right fielder Ben Gamel, younger brother of Mat,” added Law. “Ben shows a lot of promise with the bat, with good ability to square up the baseball and plenty of hip rotation for future power.” I’ve always been a bit of a Gamel homer, so I’m glad that’s been validated some.

MiLB Interviews: Davis, Cote, Bichette, Austin

Joe and I are skipping out on the podcast this week because frankly, there’s nothing to talk about. The big news of the week was Billy Eppler’s promotion, and I said everything that needed to be said about that in this post. Rather than waste 20 minutes talking about nothing, I’ll point you towards these minor league interviews that I’ve been hording over the last few days and weeks…

Prospect Profile: Tyler Austin

(Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)

Tyler Austin | 1B, 3B

Background
A Georgia kid, Christopher Tyler Austin attended Heritage High School in Conyers, about a half-hour outside Atlanta. He was a fixture at showcase events and in various travel leagues, and was a high-end recruit for Kennesaw State. Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 24th best prospect in the state prior to the 2010 draft, but noted that he could come off the board as early as the fourth round. The Yankees were patient and able to nab Austin with their 13th round pick, the 415th overall selection. He signed for $130k close to the signing deadline, over-slot but actually a bit of a bargain.

[Read more…]

Yanks place five on BA’s Top 20 NYPL prospects list

(David Schofield/MiLB.com)

Baseball America’s look at the top 20 prospects in each minor league continued with the Short Season NY-Penn League today, and the Yankees are very well represented. Mason Williams unsurprisingly topped the list, and in the subsciber-only scouting report, they say he “stays through the ball well with a simple lefthanded swing.” His “quick hands generate surprising bat speed,” which should allow for average power down the road. “Williams has plus to plus-plus speed that plays on the bases and in center field, though he’s still refining his basestealing ability and his outfield routes,” they added. “He has a solid-average arm and projects as a plus defender in center fielder.”

Cito Culver, the team’s first round pick last year, placed sixth. “He stood out most with his defense, showing smooth actions, average range and a well above-average arm at shortstop,” said the write-up, which also backed up previous reports that he’s a switch-hitter but better from the right side. Tyler Austin was two spots behind Culver at number eight, and is lauded for his plate discipline and ability to handle offspeed stuff. “He has above-average raw power and is capable of hitting balls out of the park to all fields,” said BA. The move to third base (from behind the plate) has been successful so far, but they note that Austin has to improve his footwork and become more aggressive.

Ranking 14th is Angelo Gumbs, last year’s second rounder. “[An] athletic, high-energy player with electric bat speed and a quality all-around toolset,” Gumbs has the bat speed and strength to hit for good power. A former shortstop and centerfielder, he’s working on learning second base, though some think he’d be better off in the outfield because his strong arm is a waste on the right side of the infield. The fifth and final Yankee farmhand on the list is Branden Pinder, a 16th rounder this year that ranked 19th on the list. “He streamlined his repertoire in a relief role, attacking hitters with a lively 93-94 mph fastball that topped out at 96.” Pinder is also said to have a sharp slider and a long delivery with good deception.

Very nice showing for the Baby Bombers, who won their league title this year. The next top 20 list of interest to the Yankees is the Low-A South Atlantic League, which will be  revealed on Wednesday. I’m not sure if Slade Heathcott, Rob Segedin, and J.R. Murphy spend enough time with Charleston to qualify for the list, but Gary Sanchez, Ramon Flores, Nik Turley, and Tommy Kahnle all have a chance to make an appearance.