Yankeemetrics: Broom, broom! [Sept. 5-7]

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

Tanaka’s milestone, Ellsbury’s surprising power
Backed by another solid outing from Ace Tanaka plus a couple key hits from Jacoby Ellsbury and Tyler Austin, the Yankees kept pace in the playoff chase with a critical 5-3 series-opening victory over the Blue Jays on Labor Day afternoon.

Jacoby Ellsbury, in an unlikely performance from the struggling center fielder, sparked the offense with a two-run homer in the first inning and an RBI single in the third. It was just the second time he went deep at home this year. Entering the week, his 190 at-bats at Yankee Stadium were nearly three times as many as any other player who had one or fewer homers at the ballpark (Austin Romine was next with 66 at-bats).

Tyler Austin also had a huge day at the plate, breaking out of a deep slump with a pair of doubles and two RBI. Only three other Yankee first baseman under the age of 25 have hit at least two doubles and drove in at least two runs in a game: Don Mattingly, Ron Blomberg and Lou Gehrig.

Masahiro Tanaka was hit hard early, but settled down and finished with a solid pitching line of two runs allowed on seven hits across six-plus innings. It was his 19th start this season giving up no more than two earned runs, which was tops among all American League pitchers through Monday’s games.

The Japanese star also earned his 12th win of the season, matching last year’s mark and one shy of his career-best in 2014. Yes, pitcher wins is a flawed stat, but its still a significant milestone for Tanaka. He is the fifth Yankee to win at least 12 games in each of his first three major-league seasons, along with Orlando Hernandez, Andy Pettitte, Hank Borowy and Johnny Brocoa.

Adding in Tanaka’s impressive strikeout numbers puts him in even more exclusive company. Among all major-league players to debut since the end of World War II, only six others have reached at least 12 wins and 135 strikeouts in each of their first three seasons: Ricky Romero, CC Sabathia, Hideo Nomo, Dwight Gooden, Dennis Eckersley and Tom Seaver.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Birthday bombs and snow cone catches
Tuesday’s crazy win was a harrowing roller-coaster ride of emotions, filled with a ton of wild swings in win probability and a bevy of tense moments, resulting in yet another season-saving victory for the Yankees. Let’s recap the emotional victory in the only way that we know how, Yankeemetrics-style:

Tyler Austin delivered the first game-changing highlight, celebrating his 25th birthday with a monster two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh for a 3-2 lead. The list of Yankee first baseman to hit a homer on their birthday is a fun one: Austin, Shelley Duncan, Don Mattingly and Lou Gehrig. Austin also became the first Yankee to homer on his 25th birthday since Tom Tresh in 1963.


The Yankees are now 38-10 when a player homers on their birthday (since 1913) and have won their last 15 (!) such games. The last time they lost was May 29, 1992 when Charlie Hayes went deep in a 8-3 loss to the Brewers on his 27th birthday.

After the Blue Jays snatched the lead back in the top of the eighth, the Yankees quickly erased the deficit when Didi Gregorius smoked a triple to deep center, tying the game at 4-4. Before Didi, the last Yankee with a game-tying triple in the eighth inning or later at Yankee Stadium was Mariano Duncan in 1996.

Castro capped the rally with a sac fly to make it 5-4. It was the third go-ahead sac fly by a Yankee in the eighth inning or later this year, matching their total from the past three seasons (2013-15) combined. Castro is responsible for two of those three sac flies, and is the only player in the majors this season with multiple go-ahead sac flies in the eighth or later.

Finally, with the bases full and two outs in the ninth, Brett Gardner made an incredible leaping catch at the wall to seal the victory. With that ridiculous grab, Gardner increased his defensive Plus-Minus rating — a fielding stat devised by Bill James that estimates the number of plays the player made above/below the number that an average fielder would make, according to the video scouts — to +16, which ranked second among all left fielders this season (Adam Duvall, +22).

Aaron Judge kept the seventh inning comeback bid alive with a key single ahead of Austin; however, his monumental struggles to make contact continued as he struck out twice, extending his run of multiple-strikeout games to nine. That’s the longest such streak by any major-league player over the last 100 seasons.


Three times a charm
The long pinstripe nightmare is finally over as the Yankees completed their first three-game sweep of the season with a 2-0 shutout in the series finale. Before Wednesday’s momentum-building victory, they were 0-7 in the third game of a three-game set after taking games one and two. It was also their first sweep of a team with a winning record; their only other sweeps were four-gamers against the A’s and Angels.

Starlin Castro staked the Yankees to an early lead with a bullet line drive that just barely cleared the fences in left field. It was his 20th home run of the season, joining Robinson Cano, Alfonso Soriano and Joe Gordon as the only Yankee second basemen to hit 20-plus homers in a season.

Tyler Clippard sealed the win with a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his first save with the team this year. He is the eighth Yankee to record a save in 2016, matching the 1979 and 1980 clubs for the most players with a save on any Yankee pitching staff since the save rule became official in 1969.

Luis Severino continued his dominance out of the bullpen with three more brilliant shutout innings after replacing Bryan Mitchell in the sixth. Here are his video-game-like numbers as a reliever: 14 ? innings pitched, 51 batters faced, zero earned runs and two hits allowed. Yup, opponents are “hitting” .044 (2-of-45) against Severino The Reliever. That’s easily the lowest batting average allowed by any relief pitcher that’s faced a minimum of 15 batters this season.

Yanks should hesitate to trade prospects for pitching

sanchez judge

So, the last few weeks of Yankee baseball have been pretty fun, huh? With rookies Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and Tyler Austin making their loud debuts in the lineup and Chad Green and Luis Cessa finding success–however limited–in the rotation, the Yankees are interesting to watch again. For the majority of 2013-July of this year, the Yankees haven’t exactly been exciting for a variety of reasons, but with prospects starting to graduate and make their bones in the Bronx, that’s changing for the better.  Enjoying these performances in the moment is great as it is, but since these players are young and figure to (hopefully) be mainstays in the House that George Built going forward, it’s easy to keep the future in mind. And with the injury to Nathan Eovaldi, it’s become necessary to think about the future.

The loss of Eovaldi for all of 2017 obviously leaves a hole in the Yankee rotation. Over the last week, I’ve heard suggestions on both New York sports talk radio stations (I know, I shouldn’t subject myself to that, but in my defense, my car is really old and doesn’t have a working CD player or a Bluetooth connection) that the Yankees should consider trading some of their recently bolstered prospect depth for starting pitching. With the caveat of “never say never,” this is a plan that doesn’t immediately appeal to me.

Why yes, I did already buy a 99 JUDGE shirt. (Presswire)

One of the biggest problems of roster construction for the Yankees recently has been a lack of young, cost-controlled hitting. Over the past decade, only Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner have played that role to any acclaim. Of course it’s dangerous to count prospect chickens before they hatch and some prospects are closer than others to contributing at the Major League level, but the Yankees are closer to having a solid base of young offensive talent than they have been in years. That lack of a guarantee is also why the Yankees might not want to dip into the prospect pool to trade for pitching.

The 2017 Yankees are not likely to be one pitcher away from championship-caliber contention. Given that Judge and Sanchez are likely to be counted on to replace the production–at least partially–of the departed Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Carlos Beltran, there’s always the chance that they falter. The rest of the lineup, which may or may not include another power threat in Brian McCann, is not necessarily good enough to make up for any lack o production. Then there’s the Yankee rotation, which going into 2017 has exactly one reliable starter in Masahiro Tanaka and a bunch of questions in Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, Chad Green, and Luis Cessa. Given that, it may be more prudent to buy an innings eater type on the free agent market and use 2017 as another chance to develop and evaluate the young hitters. I suppose you could make the argument that signing an innings eater and making a trade could give the Yankees a rotation solid enough to compete, but that might be hard to do from a cost perspective. Even in the offseason, the pitching market will likely favor sellers and it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the Yankees acquire an impact pitcher without giving up one of Judge or Sanchez, thus leaving a hole in an already suspect lineup.

More dangerous than he looks. (Presswire)

It would be irresponsible to say that the Yankees should decidedly not deal any of their prospect depth; that’s not a smart strategy at all and it’s foolish to say ‘never’ in baseball. Regardless, the Yankees should be wary and judicious when weighing their trade options in the offseason.

The Yankees have moved on from some veterans, and now they’re way more fun and interesting


Last night’s 1-0 win over the Blue Jays was very much a nail-biter. The Yankees have 61 wins this season and not too many of them have been stress-free. This team doesn’t do blowouts. Not this year. So of course the Blue Jays were able to put the tying run on third base in the ninth inning. The Yankees had to sweat right up until the final out, and when it was all said and done, they won for the ninth time in 14 games since the trade deadline.

That trade deadline was a momentous day (or series of days) for the Yankees. They sold for the first time in nearly three decades, sending away three productive veterans (and Ivan Nova) for 12 total prospects (and Adam Warren). I don’t think many folks thought the Yankees would actually go through with the sell-off even though it was clearly in the best interests of the franchise long-term. It had to be done.

In many cases, once a team trades away productive veterans for prospects at the deadline, they slip back in the standings and really wear it the rest of the season. Not many teams sell and improve in the second half. Those seem like conflicting ideas. Usually it’s one or the other. Not both. It’s a little early to say the Yankees have improved since the trade deadline, but you know what? They are way more fun and interesting. I have zero doubts about that.

It’s all because of the young players. The Carlos Beltran trade has cleared the way for Aaron Judge, who is the first Yankee ever to record an extra-base hit in his first three career games. The first guy to do that in franchise history. Insane. Gary Sanchez has been up for close to two weeks and he’s been mashing. Judge and Sanchez recently hit balls a combined 900 feet or so for their first career home runs. It was incredible.

There’s also Tyler Austin and Chad Green, who have had their moments as well. Austin homered in his first MLB at-bat and Green shoved against the Blue Jays last night. Eleven strikeouts in six scoreless innings against that lineup? Amazing. Warren is back and that’s fun too. So is Aaron Hicks performing well since the deadline. About the only negative lately has been Luis Severino‘s two bad starts.

The Yankees had to make some tough decisions these last few weeks to make this all possible. Selling at the deadline was no doubt a difficult call for ownership. The team also pushed Alex Rodriguez out the door and ate the $25M or so left on his contract to get these young guys in the lineup. Brian McCann has not been completely benched, but his playing time has been reduced. Mark Teixeira‘s too. You think Joe Girardi wants to do that to those guys? Of course not. But it’s for the best.

Right now the Yankees are 4.5 games back of the second wildcard spot and FanGraphs has their postseason odds at 4.1% as of this writing. I have no idea whether this team can rally and get back in the thick of the playoff race. Probably not. The odds are stacked against them. I do know the Yankees have made smart moves designed to improve the franchise long-term, and I do know they’ve called up several exciting young players recently.

Judge’s and Sanchez’s at-bats are must see television right now. Same with Austin. As great as Beltran was this season, watching Judge is far more enjoyable, at least to me. Watching Sanchez and Austin is infinitely more exciting than watching A-Rod and Teixeira, and that’s coming from a huge A-Rod fan. It’s certainly helped that the Yankees have been winning and the young guys have produced right away. No doubt about it.

Now, that said, this would all still be really fun even if the Yankees were losing and the young guys were struggling because of what we hope this represents: the next great era of Yankees baseball. Judge and Sanchez are potential cornerstone pieces. They might hit third and fourth for the next decade. Or third and fifth with Greg Bird fourth. Austin, Green, and Severino are trying to force their way into the long-term mix too. There’s others like Ben Heller and Luis Cessa as well, and even more in Triple-A.

It has been a very, very long time since the Yankees last had this much young talent on their big league roster. Not since the mid-1990s, really. That’s not a Core Five comparison. That’s just a statement of fact. The Yankees have spent the last few years toeing the line between contention and mediocrity, and they’ve finally made moves geared towards improving the future. This is all new to a lot of us, and gosh, is it fun or what?

Yankeemetrics: Birth of the Baby Bombers [Aug. 12-14]


Saying Bye-Rod
The Yankees made sure that Mr. Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez’s farewell game in pinstripes would be a memorable and winning one, as they sent the controversial slugger off into the sunset with an exhilarating comeback victory on Friday night against the Rays.

A-Rod’s final game with the Yankees (and perhaps his career) marks the final act of one of the most confounding and polarizing, yet also brilliantly talented, players in the history of this sport. Earlier this week we detailed a few of his many baseball superlatives; now here are two more numbers that put his complicated and fascinating tenure with the Yankee franchise into perspective.


Rodriguez enters the pinstripe record books with a batting line of .283/.378/.523 across 12 seasons in the Bronx. Among the hundreds of players that have compiled at least 200 plate appearances with the Yankees, only four others have reached each of those thresholds in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage: Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.

Although A-Rod has frequently been chastised for his purported lack of clutch hitting in the playoffs, there is this stat to consider: A-Rod had four career game-tying or go-ahead hits in the ninth inning or later in the postseason, the most among all players in major-league history.

With the adrenaline pumping, A-Rod kicked off his last game in style, sending a 96 mph fastball from Chris Archer into right-center field for a first-inning RBI double. It was his first hit on pitch of more than 95 mph since June 7, a single off Angels reliever Cam Bedrosian.

Dellin Betances struck out the side in the ninth inning, recording his 100th, 101st and 102nd strikeouts of the season. This is the third year in a row he’s racked up at least 100 strikeouts, becoming the third reliever in American League history with back-to-back-to-back 100-K campaigns. The others are Dick Radatz (1962-65) and Duane Ward (1989-92), who both put together four-season streaks of at least 100 Ks.


New Kids in the Bronx
These are certainly not your father’s Yankees anymore. On Day One of the post-Alex Rodriguez Era, it was clear that the franchise’s much-hyped youth movement is in full swing.

The team called up highly-touted prospects Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge before Saturday’s afternoon contest and Joe Girardi immediately wrote their names on the lineup card, Judge in right field and Austin at first base. They were the first Yankee teammates to make their big-league debuts as starters in the same game since John Ellis and Jim Lyttle on May 17, 1969 against the Angels.

The two Baby Bombers wasted little time in earning their True Yankee pinstripes. Batting seventh and eighth, the duo electrified the Yankee Stadium crowd early with back-to-back solo homers in the second inning, fueling an offensive explosion that resulted in a fun-to-watch and rousing 8-4 win.

With those two blasts, Austin and Judge completed a stunning and unprecedented feat, becoming the first teammates in baseball history to each homer in their MLB debut in the same game. Before they went deep, only three other Yankees had ever homered in their first career at-bats in the bigs: Andy Phillips in 2004, Marcus Thames in 2002 (on the first pitch from Randy Johnson!) and John Miller in 1966.

Austin added a stolen base to his historic debut, becoming the first AL player to homer and steal in his first major-league game since Bert Campaneris (Kansas City A’s) in 1964; he is the only Yankee to accomplish the feat since at least 1913.

Starlin Castro, Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius soon joined the home run party on this hot and humid day, sending the ball over the fence in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings, respectively.

That gave the Yankees five players age 26 or younger with a longball, the first time in franchise history they’ve had that many under-27 guys go deep in the same game. Only three other teams have ever done this in the regular season over the past century: the 2016 Cubs, 2013 Astros and 1996 Brewers (the Cubs also did in Game 3 of the NLDS last year).

Even more impressively, each of the five youngsters also added another hit, making the Yankees the only MLB team in last 100 years to have five different players under the age of 27 with at least two hits and a homer in the same game.

Judge, jury and … homers!
The Yankees emotional ceremony-filled weekend ended with a thud on Sunday afternoon. They were creamed by the Rays, 12-3, snapping their four-game win streak and pushing them further back in the wild card race.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Luis Severino got hammered for seven runs in 3 2/3 innings, falling to 0-8 with a 8.58 ERA as a starter this season. That is the longest losing streak as a starter to begin a season by a Yankee since Fred Talbot lost his first eight starting decisions in 1968.

Even more depressing, the Yankees have still yet to win a game with Severino on the mound as the starting pitcher. Over last 100 years, this is the only time that the Yankees have lost the first nine games of a season started by a pitcher.

His fastball command was inconsistent and his changeup again was non-existent, though his slider was nasty at times, as he racked up seven strikeouts.

That bizarro performance produced a crazy pitching line that no major-league pitcher had recorded in nearly a decade. The last guy to allow at least seven earned runs and strike out at least seven batters in an outing of fewer than four innings pitched was Kenny Rogers in 2008 for the Tigers.

The lone highlights of the game were provided by the bats of the newly-christened Baby Bombers as Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez both homered in the loss. Judge became just the second player in franchise history to go deep in each of his first two major-league games, joining the immortal Joe Lefebvre (1980).

Sanchez’s two-run shot left his bat at 102 mph; he now has an average exit velocity of 91.6 mph this season, the highest among all Yankees with at least 10 batted balls in play.

Yankees call up Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin

Judge. (Presswire)
Judge. (Presswire)

The Yankees have called up Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin, and they’re both in the lineup this afternoon, making their Major League debuts. Judge is playing his usual right field and Austin is at first base. One is replacing Alex Rodriguez on the roster. No word on the other roster move yet. The Yankees also have to clear a 40-man roster spot, but that won’t be a problem. Conor Mullee is a 60-day DL candidate.

Word got out late last night that Austin would be called up to replace A-Rod. The Judge call-up is a bit of a surprise, though it’s not totally unexpected. The Yankees have strongly hinted he would get called up at some point. It just seemed like they would wait until rosters expand in September, at least to me. What a pleasant surprise. They’re going all-in on their prospects down the stretch.

Austin, 24, is one of the feel good stories of the season. He was the team’s 13th round pick in 2010 and he quickly emerged as a quality prospect, but injuries set him back and really took a bite out of his prospect stock the last few years. Austin has reemerged this season and is hitting .294/.392/.524 (162 wRC+) with 17 homers in 107 games between Double-A and Triple-A. He’s a cancer survivor and has been throughout quite a bit of adversity to get to MLB.

Judge took a more straight forward path to the big leagues. The 24-year-old mountain of a man was the 32nd overall pick in the 2013 draft, and aside from the second half with Triple-A Scranton last year, he destroyed the minors the last few seasons. He’s hitting .269/.363/.481 (145 wRC+) with 19 homers in 92 games around a relatively minor knee injury with the RailRiders this season. Judge mashed a monster homer just last night.

It’s a safe bet that Judge will play right field pretty much every day going forward. In fact, Brian Cashman told Bryan Hoch, “You’re going to definitely see Aaron Judge playing every day in right field.” They didn’t call him up to sit on the bench. Austin doesn’t have as clear a path to playing time. I think he’s going to end up bouncing around between first base, the corner outfield, and DH the rest of the way. Nothing wrong with that.

Judge and Austin join the recently called up Gary Sanchez on the roster, so the Yankees in the middle of a full blown youth movement. That’s awfully fun. The Yankees are also still trying to win, and hey, why not? They’re only 3.5 games out of a wildcard spot. Not like there’s anything better to do the rest of the season, right? If the Yankees do get to the postseason, the kids will have to lead them.

Poll: Replacing Alex Rodriguez

Austin. (Presswire)
Austin. (Presswire)

Tomorrow night Alex Rodriguez will play the final game of his MLB career. That’s pretty wild, isn’t it? We all knew the end would come sooner rather than later, but this is all happening so fast. It’s for the best though. The Yankees are better off with someone else occupying A-Rod‘s roster spot, and come Saturday, someone else will indeed be occupying that roster spot.

The Yankees seem committing to giving their young players a chance down the stretch, and A-Rod’s exit gives them an opportunity to incorporate another kid into the lineup. Gary Sanchez has been up for a week already and he’s getting regular at-bats. It’s pretty cool. Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin seem to be the most likely candidates to replace A-Rod, but they’re not alone. Let’s break down their cases.

Tyler Austin

The Case For Austin: After a few seasons of injury and poor performance, Austin has put himself back on the prospect map this year by hitting .295/.394/.527 (161 wRC+) with 17 homers in 106 games split between Double-A and Triple-A. He’s got opposite field pop and defensive versatility, at least somewhat. Austin can play first base and right field, as well as DH. He could also man third base in a real pinch, but not regularly.

Austin has to be added to the 40-man roster after the season and the Yankees figure to do exactly that rather than risk losing him for nothing. Greg Bird is rehabbing from shoulder surgery and first base is a little up in the air next season, and Austin could be an option there. Calling him up now and giving him regular at-bats would give the Yankees a chance to evaluate him against MLB caliber pitching. That’s the entire point of calling these guys up.

The Case Against Austin: Even with the bounceback year, Austin’s upside is not sky high, and he projects as maybe a solid regular at the MLB level if things break right. Historically, righty hitting and righty throwing first basemen have to hit and hit big to stick around long-term. Austin’s ability to play the outfield works in his favor, though we’re now talking about a right-handed Garrett Jones type. Rather than audition Austin this month, the Yankees could opt to play a higher upside prospect with a better chance to be a part of the next core.

Aaron Judge

The Case For Judge: Simply put, Judge came into the season as the team’s top prospect — he’d still be their top prospect if not for the Clint Frazier trade — and he’s done exactly what the Yankees wanted him to do this season. He’s putting up good numbers (.265/.359/.472 with 18 homers and a 141 wRC+) and he’s cut his strikeout rate down to 23.9%, lowest it’s been since he was in Low-A ball two years ago. The performance is there.

Judge. (Times Leader)
Judge. (Times Leader)

On top of that, the right field job is wide open going forward, and Judge is the obvious candidate to assume that position long-term. It’s not just about the bat. Judge is a surprisingly good runner for his size and he’s an asset on defense with a very strong arm. He’s going to surprise a lot of people with his athleticism when he first comes up. Guys listed at 6-foot-7 and 275 lbs. usually don’t move this well. Judge is the heir apparent in right field and his time is now.

The Case Against Judge: Judge did just return from a knee injury that forced him to miss close to a month, remember. He’s performed well since returning, going 10-for-29 (.345) in eight games, but that’s still a lot of time to miss. A few more Triple-A at-bats to make up for the lost time wouldn’t be the end of the world. Also, Judge doesn’t offer much versatility, so if the Yankees remain committed to giving Aaron Hicks a look, the everyday at-bats might not be there.

Other Candidates

Ben Gamel: Gamel is having another strong season in Triple-A (132 wRC+) around a few short call-ups to MLB. He’s a lefty hitting outfielder, which is something the Yankees don’t exactly lack right now. Finding playing time for Gamel, who might only be a fourth outfielder long-term, might not be all that easy. I — and I think the Yankees — would rather see Hicks out there everyday.

Clint Frazier: Overall, Frazier is hitting .273/.345/.463 (122 wRC+) this season, though most of that is at Double-A. He’s played 13 total games at Triple-A (73 wRC+), including eight since the trade. Frazier is ridiculously talented and a potential impact hitter, but there is still some development to be done. Calling him up would be a sexy, headline making move. It would also be extremely aggressive.

Chris Parmelee: Remember him? Parmelee is currently on a Triple-A rehab assignment and will have to be activated off the DL no later than Thursday, August 25th. He could be activated to replace A-Rod and get a bunch of first base and DH at-bats. Of course, the 28-year-old Parmelee has no long-term future in the organization, so he doesn’t exactly qualify as part of the youth movement.

Others like Jake Cave, Cesar Puello, and Mason Williams could be call-up candidates as well — Williams is actually on the Triple-A DL with a quad injury at the moment — though they seem to be further down the depth chart at the moment. It truly feels like it’s Austin and Judge against the field right now. Who’s the best option?

Who should be called up to replace A-Rod?

Tyler Austin has put himself back on the prospect map and should get a look in the second half


As recently as two years ago, Tyler Austin was so well-regarded that Keith Law (subs. req’d) placed him 85th on his annual top 100 prospects list, one spot ahead of current Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop. That was the last time Austin would appear on a top 100 list due to ongoing injuries and performance issues. His prospect stock cratered the last two years.

Austin, now 24, hit .263/.332/.390 (105 wRC+) with 17 homers in 806 total plate appearances from 2014-15, mostly at Double-A but also some Triple-A. He dealt with a bunch of injuries too, most notably wrist problems. Those numbers aren’t that bad, but for a bat first prospect at a corner position, they’re not nearly good enough to stay on the various prospect lists.

The injuries and lack of production led to Austin losing his 40-man roster spot last September. The Yankees designated him for assignment to clear space for other players and Austin slipped through waivers unclaimed. He went from a top 100 prospect prior to 2014 to unclaimed on waivers in September 2015. Austin didn’t even get invited to big league Spring Training this year. That’s quite a fall, one many players usually don’t come back from.

“You never want to go backward in this game but I think it was a great learning experience for me,” said Austin to Shane Hennigan back in June. “This game humbled me very fast and I found out the hard way. I’m going to try and not let anything like that happen again and continue to work hard and go from there.”

With a healthy wrist and a chip on his shoulder after being passed over on waivers, Austin has rebuilt some prospect stock this year, first by mashing in Double-A and then continuing to do so in Triple-A. He put up a .260/.367/.395 (118 wRC+) line with the Thunder and went into last night’s game hitting .316/.417/.649 (209 wRC+) with the RailRiders. Overall, Austin has hit .288/.392/.521 (161 wRC+) with 17 homers in 99 games. Those 17 homers are his most since hitting 17 during his breakout 2012 season.

The big bounceback season has put Austin back on the prospect map and apparently on the cusp of the big leagues as well. In recent days both Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner mentioned Austin as a call-up candidate in the second half. When the owner mentions you by name in interviews, you’re doing something right. I’m of the belief Austin should indeed get a look in the second half, and not just because his numbers are good. There are plenty of other good reasons as well.

1. He’s a righty hitter with opposite field power. The old scouting reports on Austin said he had power to all fields and a level swing that made consistent hard contact. We didn’t see that version of Austin from 2014-15 due to the wrist and other physical problems. This year, the good version of Austin has returned, and he’s showing that all-fields power. Check out his 2016 spray chart, via MLB Farm:

Tyler Austin spray chart

I count eight of Austin’s 17 home runs going out to right field. Ten of his 29 doubles have been hit to the right field side of dead center as well. Needless to say, a right-handed hitter who can drive the ball with authority to right field is a damn good fit for Yankee Stadium. Austin has pull power as well, but that ability to go the other way is what made him a top 100 prospect back in the day. We’ve seen the oppo pop return in 2016.

2. He plays a position(s) of need. The Yankees originally drafted Austin out of a Georgia high school as a catcher back in the 13th round of the 2010 draft. He immediately moved to first base, then gave third base a try, then shifted to right field, and now he’s back at first. Austin has moved around quite a bit over the years as the Yankees tried to find his best natural position. Turns out it’s first base.

The Yankees have a long-term need at first base, and while everyone hopes Greg Bird fills that spot, this year’s shoulder injury has thrown a wrench into things. At the very least, the Yankees figure to need a right-handed platoon partner for Bird next season, and that’s a role Austin can fill. He could also be an option in the two corner outfield spots and an emergency option at third base. Austin offers a little versatility and is capable of playing first base, a position that is a question mark going forward until Bird shows he’s healthy and productive.

3. This offseason is decision time. Back in November 2014, the Yankees added Austin to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. They dropped him from the 40-man last September and he went unpicked in December’s Rule 5 Draft, which was no surprise. No team bothered to claim him off waivers, when they could have acquired him for nothing and not put up with the Rule 5 Draft rules. Why would they then take him in the Rule 5 Draft?

This offseason Austin will not just be Rule 5 Draft eligible again. He’s up for minor league free agency. And if he hits the open market, the smart money is on him joining an organization that gives him the best chance to break into the big leagues immediately. You could argue that team is the Yankees with Mark Teixeira likely to be let go and Bird coming back from shoulder surgery, but Austin may not see it that way.

The Yankees are going to have to decide whether to keep Austin by adding him to the 40-man roster — if he’s put back on the 40-man, he can’t become a minor league free agent — or likely lose him for nothing as a free agent. That’s not ideal. Austin has two minor league option years left, so they could keep him and always send him back to Triple-A if there’s a roster crunch. That’s not a problem. Either way, it’s decision time. Something has to happen.

* * *

It’s important to keep in mind that while it’s good to call a player up and get a look at him in the second half, it can be deceiving. Those 40-50 games are still a small sample size and they can play tricks on you. Luis Severino sure looked ready to take over as the staff ace following those eleven starts last season, right? Those 40-50 games are useful and they do help teams evaluate the player. They don’t tell the entire story though. Hardly.

Austin’s prospect stock took a huge hit the last two years, so much so that he went unclaimed on waivers. He’s rebounded this season thanks mostly to good health, and if nothing else, he’s put himself in position to be considered for a call-up. With Teixeira not hitting all year and a clear long-term need at first base, it would behoove the Yankees to call Austin up and get his feet wet at the MLB level down the stretch. His performance and those three reasons above are why it should happen.