Archive for Tyler Austin

Dec
21

On Tyler Austin and third base

Posted by: | Comments (42)

(Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)

I wrote this two weeks ago…

I do wonder if the combination of A-Rod’s continued breakdown and Dante Bichette Jr.’s miserable season will make the Yankees consider moving Tyler Austin back to third base. He was drafted as a catcher and moved to third immediately as a pro, but this season the team shifted him to right field in part due to the presence of Bichette at the same level. Austin has the bat for any position and if he can handle the hot corner defensively, it’s something they should seriously consider. At the same time, there’s no much going right with Austin that you don’t want to screw it up by having him change positions yet again.

Chad Jennings reported this two days ago…

This winter, the Yankees at least considered the idea of moving Austin back to third base, but they ultimately decided to keep him in right field for the time being.

“He’s a better defender in right,” vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said. “But (putting him back at third) is something we’ve thought about. It’s a possibility.”

Austin, 21, is arguably the team’s best prospect. I don’t think he is, but you can definitely make the argument. He just wrapped up a monster 2012 season, hitting .322/.400/.559 with 17 homers and 23 steals (in 25 chances) while climbing from Low-A Charleston to Double-A Trenton. Although he only has 148 plate appearances with High-A Tampa to his credit, it’s likely Austin will open next season back in Trenton.

The Yankees have an obvious need for a long-term third base solution. Twenty third baseman have posted a 100 wRC+ or better over the last three seasons (min. 1,000 PA), but eight of those guys have since changed positions or retired. There are a lot of teams out there in need of help at the hot corner, which is why Mike Olt has been popular on the trade rumor circuit for roughly a year now. New York’s best hope for a homegrown third baseman right now is probably David Adams, who has 37 career games at the position and profiles far better at second base.

Third base and right field are right next to each other on the defensive spectrum and there isn’t much value to be gained by moving a player from right to third. Maybe the gap on the defensive spectrum is bigger for the Yankees since right field in Yankee Stadium is quite tiny, but I don’t think it makes a huge difference. We’re not talking about moving a guy from left to catcher or from the bullpen into the rotation or something.  If Austin is truly better defensively in right like Newman says, then his value is greater with solid defense in right than with adequate or worse defense at third.

Austin took well to right field last season and, frankly, the Yankees need a long-term right fielder as well. Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, and the oft-overlooked Ramon Flores do give the club a bevy of potential outfield solutions though, and of course there are three different outfield spots to fill. The more I think about it the more I agree with what I wrote two weeks ago, that there is so much going right with Austin that I wouldn’t risk screwing him up somehow by asking him to change positions yet again. The Yankees apparently feel the same way, and ultimately the most important thing is that he keeps hitting and progressing offensively. If he does that, his bat will fit anywhere.

Categories : Minors
Comments (42)

(Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees have been very active on the free agent market this offseason, though it’s easy to forget since most of the signings were re-signings. Kevin Youkilis is the only new player the team has signed this winter, and they still have questions to answer at DH, behind the plate (unlikely to be addressed in a meaningful way), and on the bench. There’s a lot of offseason left and a lot of holes to fill.

For a big market team like New York, free agency is the easiest way to add players. There’s always the trade route though, and in fact the club has swung a major trade in four of the last five offseasons. Some (Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson) have worked better than others (Michael Pineda and Javy Vazquez). The Yankees may or may not have a trade of that magnitude left in them this winter, but not every deal has to be a blockbuster to help. Let’s take stock of the team’s current crop of trade chips.

Boone Logan
Logan, 28, has emerged as the team’s primary left-handed reliever over the last two years, but in no way should he be off limits this offseason. In fact, Clay Rapada has been much more effective against same-side hitters in recent years, though he’s unusable against righties. Logan can at least fake it against batters of the opposite hand if need be. Since he’s due to become a free agent next winter and is coming off a career-high (and league-leading) 80 appearances, Boone should be made very available this winter. Teams continually prove willing to overpay for quality relief, especially a left-handed relief.

Eduardo Nunez
For all his defensive deficiencies, the 25-year-old Nunez has garnered plenty of trade interest (from the Braves and Mariners, specifically) in recent years. Finding decent middle infield help these days is close to impossible, so teams are eager to roll the dice on a cheap young player with speed and contact skills. Frankly, if Nunez had spent the last few years in some other city, a lot of Yankees fans would be looking at him as a buy-low guy whose defense might be fixable with enough reps. Because we’ve seen the hilarious frequency of his errors first hand, he gets written off quickly. C’est la vie.

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Ivan Nova & David Phelps
The Yankees brought both Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte back, meaning Nova and Phelps will battle it out for the fifth starter’s spot in camp. The loser goes to the bullpen (or Triple-A) to wait his turn as the sixth starter. Both guys could also be trade bait as young, cost-controlled back-end arms, though both also have their warts. Nova got pounded last season and Phelps has just a handful of big league starts to his credit.

Phil Hughes could also be lumped into this group, but he only offers one year of team control and is being counted on as the fourth starter behind the three veterans. He shouldn’t be off-limits, but he might not fetch as much as the team would like given the impending free agency. Hughes is most desirable to contenders, and it’s not often you see a trade made between two contenders.

Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, Gary Sanchez & Tyler Austin
You can’t have a trade chips post without mentioning the top prospects. These four represent the team’s best young minor leaguers in whatever order, though none of them have meaningful experience at the Double-A level. For all intents and purposes, they’re four high-upside guys in Single-A ball.  As we’ve seen in the recent R.A. Dickey and James Shields trades, it takes an elite prospect on the cusp of the big leagues to land an impact player. Teams will surely line up to acquire these four, but I don’t think any of them would be enough to bring say, a young and MLB ready impact bat without significant secondary pieces. Twelve months from now, one or all of these guys could be among the best trade chips in the sport.

* * *

Curtis Granderson’s name has popped up as a trade candidate numerous times this offseason, though I maintain that it will be close to impossible to trade him and improve the team at the same time. The Yankees didn’t drop $62M total on five free agents this winter to trade their best power hitter for a young player who might help two or three years from now, potentially wasting a year of CC Sabathia at his best, of Robinson Cano at his best, of David Robertson at his best, of Pettitte and Mariano Rivera before they call it a career. With the 2014 payroll plan looming, making one last “all-in” run in 2013 should be the club’s top priority even if they seem to feel differently.

Categories : Hot Stove League
Comments (99)

Heathcott. (Jordan Megenhardt/MLB.com)

Baseball America published their list of the top ten Yankees prospects today, and the list is free for all. The scouting reports, however, are not. You need a subscription for them. The four names atop the list shouldn’t be a surprise (the order might), but things do get a little wacky after that. Let’s break it down…

  1. OF Mason Williams
  2. OF Slade Heathcott
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. OF Tyler Austin
  5. RHP Jose Campos
  6. RHP Brett Marshall
  7. 2B Angelo Gumbs
  8. LHP Manny Banuelos
  9. RHP Ty Hensley
  10. RHP Rafael DePaula

Two things stand out about the list. First, the Yankees are suddenly very top heavy with position player prospects, particularly outfielders. Outside of Jesus Montero, their recent top tens were mostly dominated by upper level arms. The Yankees are going to need that infusion of young bats and relatively soon, but Heathcott is only position player on the list who I think will open next year at Double-A. Austin has a chance, but it would surprise me a bit.

Williams. (NY Daily News)

Secondly, everyone’s hurt. Five of those ten guys missed significant time this season due to injury, and that doesn’t include Hensley’s shoulder “abnormality” or the month Austin missed with a mild concussion. Heathcott (shoulder) obviously came back healthy and Gumbs (elbow) has as well (based on the fact that he’s playing winter ball), plus Williams (shoulder) was just cleared to resume workouts. Banuelos will miss all of next season with Tommy John surgery though, and a club official said Campos (elbow) will “hopefully” be ready for Spring Training in the subscriber-only write-up. That doesn’t sound promising, but what can you do.

The write-ups include scouting grades (on the 20-80 scale) for each team’s top prospect and the grades for Williams are just insane — 60 hit, 60 power, 70 speed, 70 defense, 50 arm. That’s four above-average tools and one average one. Those are future grades and not present — they think he’ll grow into a 60 hitter, not that he is one today — but they still seem a little optimistic, particularly the power. A 60/60 bat is a .290-.300 hitter with 25 or so homers. Add the 70 speed and 70 defense and you’ve got 30+ steals and near Gold Glove defense. That’s a star player, it’s Grady Sizemore in his prime, but again the grades strike me as optimistic based on everything we’ve heard about Williams to this point.

Elsewhere in the write-up they note that Heathcott offers “explosive tools” — yesterday Keith Law said Heathcott has louder tools than Williams, though Mason is more refined — and that while Sanchez doesn’t stack up to Montero offensively, he has a much better chance of sticking behind the plate. Campos was “electric” before getting hurt while Banuelos was still struggling to command his fastball. They call DePaula the biggest x-factor in the system and say his “ceiling is as high as any Yankees minor league pitcher.” He’ll make the big jump to High-A Tampa next year.

With Banuelos essentially out for the season, the only top ten prospect who figures to spend significant time at Triple-A next year will be Marshall. The Yankees will have Adam Warren and maybe a veteran signing or two ahead of him on the call-up depth chart, possibly even Dellin Betances if things break right. The talent gap that has been slowly climbing the ladder in recent years has hit Triple-A, meaning the Bombers will have to make sure they bring in some depth pieces via free agency to shore up potential holes on the big league roster. The team’s top prospects just aren’t in a position to help next year, and maybe not in 2014 as well.

Categories : Minors
Comments (75)

Friday: McDaniel following up with a part four looking at a number of secondary pitching prospects — including an interesting 18-year-old right-hander just brought up from the Dominican Summer League — as well as OF Slade Heathcott, SS Cito Culver, and SS Austin Aune. So yeah, get on that.

Tuesday: Over at FanGraphs, Kiley McDaniel put together some scouting notes on various Yankees prospects he saw in Instructional League the last few weeks (part one, part two, part three). Among those covered were OF Tyler Austin, 2B Angelo Gumbs, RHP Hayden Sharp, 3B Dante Bichette Jr., RHP Dellin Betances, 3B Miguel Andujar, C Peter O’Brien, and C Gary Sanchez. Some of the reports are good, others not so much. They’re all worth the read though, so make sure you head over to check all of them out.

Categories : Asides, Minors
Comments (35)

(MiLB.com)

After placing three prospects on the Low-A South Atlantic League list last week, the Yankees had four prospects on Baseball America’s top 20 High-A Florida State League prospects today. OF Tyler Austin ranked eighth while C Gary Sanchez was right behind him at number nine. OF Slade Heathcott and LHP Nik Turley were further down at 17th and 18th, respectively. Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez topped the list and was followed by former Yankees first rounder RHP Gerrit Cole, now with the Pirates. The list is free for all.

Austin and Sanchez ranked fourth and fifth in the Sally League list last week, respectively, and the subscriber-only scouting reports were nearly identical. “Austin’s most notable asset may be his ability to make adjustments from at-bat to at-bat,” wrote the publication while adding that Sanchez has “learned that he could (hit) balls over the fence without swinging from his heels.” OF Mason Williams only got 86 plate appearances with High-A Tampa before injuring his shoulder, so he didn’t have enough playing time to qualify for the list. RHP Mark Montgomery had enough innings to qualify but just didn’t make the cut.

The 21-year-old Heathcott garnered some high praise for his exciting tools, including “above-average power and plus-plus speed.” The major concern is his durability, as he’s already had two left shoulder surgeries since being drafted in 2009 and plays with the kind of reckless abandon that could make it difficult for him to stay on the field consistently. Playing all-out is great, but Slade probably needs to scale it back a bit. An opposing manager said Heathcott was his “favorite player in the league … He can flat-out play the game. He has great energy, he plays defense, he runs and he has power. He did it all against us. It’s just a matter of staying on the field.”

(Mark LoMoglio)

Turley, 23, drew comparisons to Andy Pettitte for his big frame and delivery. The 6-for-6, 230 lbs. southpaw “works his 89-92 mph fastball to both sides of the plate, setting up a big-breaking curveball that can freeze hitters.” Baseball America notes that his changeup is erratic, but he uses his size to throw downhill and generate ground balls (49% this season). The Pettitte comparisons are lofty and will create unrealistic expectations, so I feel obligated to tell you that when Andy was Turley’s age, he was already in the big leagues and in the team’s rotation for good.

The next list relevant to the Yankees is the Double-A Eastern League, which will be released tomorrow. The only Yankees farmhands who are candidates for that list are RHP Brett Marshall, OF Zoilo Almonte, and IF David Adams, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were shut out of the top 20 entirely. Good but not great prospects rarely crack a Double-A top 20. The Yankees didn’t place anyone on the Short Season NY-Penn League or Rookie Gulf Coast League lists.

Categories : Minors
Comments (24)

From left to right: Williams, Austin, Sanchez. (MiLB.com)

After getting shut out of the Gulf Coast League and NY-Penn League lists, the Yankees finally landed some prospects on one of Baseball America’s league top 20 lists. The Low-A South Atlantic League list was released today, with hard-throwing Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez claiming the top spot. OF Tyler Austin and C Gary Sanchez placed fourth and fifth, respectively, behind Fernandez, SS Trevor Story (Rockies), and OF Gregory Polanco (Pirates). OF Mason Williams was a little further down at nine. The list is free for all, no subscription is required.

“(Austin) has a great approach at the plate. He’s a gamer. This is the kind of kid you want on your team. He has the ability and the desire, and that’s a great combination,” said an opposing manager in the subscriber-only scouting report. Baseball America lauds the 21-year-old’s offensive skills — “a balanced approach, terrific hand-eye coordination and good strength … makes hard contact with solid power to all fields” — while noting his improved defensive skills in right field. My Minor League Player of the Year posted a 175 wRC+ with 14 homers in 309 plate appearances for the River Dogs this season.

Sanchez, 19, ranked 14th on the Sally League list a year ago and the offensive scouting report is relatively unchanged. The publication lauds hit ability to square up pitches and hit for big power — “You see the power he possesses and you say, ‘You got to be kidding me,'” said an opposing manager — but knocks him for his defense. Sanchez has a strong arm and can thrown out base-stealers, but he struggles with his receiving and there are concerns about his work ethic. He produced a 137 wRC+ with 13 homers in 289 plate appearances for Charleston this summer.

The 20-year-old Williams was further down the list than I expected, as Baseball America knocked him for his makeup. “He reportedly caused a few headaches for the Charleston staff and turned off observers with the way he carried himself on the field,” they wrote, while one NL scout said he has “got tools but needs to be humbled.” At the same time, he was praised for his “plus-plus speed and center-field defense,” as well as his “quick bat and average power.” Williams hit to a 129 wRC+ with eight homers and 19 steals in 311 plate appearances for the River Dogs before being promoted.

Here is the full top 20 schedule. The next list of interest to Yankees fans is the High-A Florida State League, which will be released next Monday. Sanchez, Austin, and Williams likely did not spend enough time with High-A Tampa to qualify for the list, but OF Ramon Flores, LHP Nik Turley, and RHP Jose Ramirez sure did. I’m not sure that any will make the top 20, but they should have at least garnered consideration. OF Slade Heathcott and RHP Mark Montgomery are right on the playing time bubble and should make it if eligible.

Categories : Minors
Comments (28)

MLB.com recently rolled out their team top 20 prospects lists, and they have C Gary Sanchez claiming the top spot for the Yankees. OF Mason Williams and OF Tyler Austin round out the top three. Those are the names you’re going to see at the top of the club’s prospect lists all offseason, just not necessarily in that order. A healthy OF Slade Heathcott and an unhealthy LHP Manny Banuelos occupy the four and five slots, respectively.

The feature includes write-ups on all 20 players and in some cases, video as well. The MLB.com lists are always off the beaten path a bit — both UTIL Jose Pirela (#15) and RHP Zach Nuding (#19) cracked the top 20 over RHP Brett Marshall — which I enjoy just for the change of pace. Only two of the club’s top ten prospects are pitchers compared to three top ten position players from the 2010 draft alone. That’s a major difference compared to the last few seasons, when the top-end of the list was dominated by the guys on the mound.

Categories : Asides, Minors
Comments (28)

We were running light on questions this week, so I opened the floor to the Twitter public yesterday afternoon and got a bunch of responses that way. Feel free to send us questions via Twitter in the future, but I can’t promise I’ll catch them all. You’re much better off using the Submit A Tip box for mailbag questions or anything else.

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

From @DanFoolery: What’s the Near/Not-so-Near yet still-pretty-near plan for a MLB catcher for the Yanks? Romine? Sanchez? (Gulp) Martin?

This is the million dollar question right here and there’s no obvious answer. Austin Romine effectively lost a season due to his back injury, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a viable big league option next spring. It just means that he might not be ready for the job full-time. Gary Sanchez is still years away and is not a 2013 factor, and J.R. Murphy probably won’t enter his name into the race for another year as well. Frankie Cervelli is just a backup.

The free agent catching market boils down to Russell Martin, Mike Napoli (hasn’t started more than 70 games behind the plate since 2009), Kelly Shoppach (pretty good option on a one-year deal), and contract year A.J. Pierzynski (someone will overpay based on this season). Trade targets could include Nick Hundley (Yasmani Grandal took his job) and John Buck (no way). I want to think that Martin’s poor season has lowered his value to the point where the Yankees could bring him back on a one-year, $6-8M pact to serve as a stopgap, but I just don’t see it happening. Sanchez is the clear long-term solution here, but what happens between now and then is a total mystery to me. That’s not a good thing.

From @adakannayr: Small sample size, but could Dickerson be a suitable replacement assuming we aren’t bringing back Swisher?

I like Chris Dickerson probably more than anyone should, but I don’t see him as an everyday outfielder for a contending team. He’s always had a significant platoon split (this year in Triple-A notwithstanding) but the good news for him is that he’s the more often used left-handed half of the platoon. Dickerson can run well and play very good defense, so that’s not a problem. The Yankees would just need a platoon partner, and that means they’ll be using two roster spots to replace the production as one. If they don’t bring Nick Swisher back, I would hope they’d look for a legitimate everyday solution and use a Dickerson-based platoon as just a fall back. Not even Plan B, like Plan C or D.

From @TomHasOpinions: Wonder if Nunez could be a CF answer-Lower bar on offense, fast w/arm strength, bad accuracy could be masked in OF..thoughts?

Center field is interesting. I’ve always thought that if Eduardo Nunez was going to play one position on an everyday basis, the best bet is probably second thanks to the short throw, but center would make much better use of his speed. Now obviously the transition from the infield to center is not an easy one and something you want him to go through in Triple-A, but it’s definitely doable at his age. Nunez isn’t a great hitter but he makes a ton of contact, steals bases, and has just enough pop to be dangerous, so maybe there’s a chance he develops into a .280/.330/.390 guy who steals 25+ bases in center. That’s not a star but it is a pretty useful player if he can figure the defense thing out. Consider me intrigued.

From @rickhindle: If he continues to hit, will Tyler Austin be the Yankees everyday RF in 2014

I always tend to think conservatively when it comes to prospects having big league impact, but I do think that’s a very real possibility. Austin has done nothing but hit since the day he turned pro, and I mean hit for both average and power. His bat will have to carry him because he isn’t a great defender, but the kid can hit. Despite this late season call-up to Double-A Trenton, I think Austin will open next year back with High-A Tampa before earning a quick promotion back up to Trenton in May or June. If he continues to mash there and gets in a few Triple-A games late in the summer, he’d be right where he needs to be as far as being a big league option. Does that mean he’ll produce in the Bronx right away? No, he probably won’t, but I think there’s a good chance Austin will hit his way into consideration for a big league job by Spring Training 2014.

(Patrick McDermott/Getty)

From @HyShai: Is there another pitcher (in history, other than Mo) that had success only throwing FBs and cutters, with no off speed?

I have no idea how to look this up for all of baseball history, but we can make this work for the PitchFX era (2008-present). Looking at the 111 starters who have thrown at least 500 IP since 2008, here are the ten most fastball-heavy pitchers…

  1. Kyle Kendrick — 77.8%
  2. Aaron Cook — 77.6%
  3. Justin Masterson — 76.6%
  4. Jon Niese — 76.4%
  5. Cliff Lee — 74.6%
  6. Jon Lester — 74.0%
  7. Matt Harrison — 73.3%
  8. David Price — 72.9%
  9. Mike Pelfrey — 72.5%
  10. Chad Billingsley — 72.0%

That includes four-seamers, two-seamers, cutters and sinkers, but not splitters, which are an offspeed pitch. Kendrick, Cook, Masterson, Harrison, and Pelfrey are all sinker-ballers while Niese, Lee, Lester, and Billingsley mix it up and throw four-seamers, two-seamers, and cutters regularly. Price is just a BAMF and pumps the heat all the time. Andy Pettitte is 12th on the list at 71.3% while CC Sabathia is way further down at 68th (59.9%). He’s actually right behind Hiroki Kuroda (60.1%).

Other than Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey, the least used fastball(s) belongs to Bronson Arroyo (27.9%). The most used individual pitch by a starter since 2008 is Clayton Kershaw’s four-seamer at 67.7%. Seems like two out of every three pitches being a fastball is the closest we’ll get to a one-pitch starter. The most used offspeed pitch is Armando Galarraga’s slider (36.0%), but among MLB-caliber pitchers it’s the sliders of Ervin Santana and Bud Norris (both 35.6%). Here are the fastball-heavy relievers (min. 100 IP for 244 qualifiers)…

  1. Mariano Rivera — 99.4%
  2. Jason Motte — 90.6%
  3. Kenley Jansen — 89.7%
  4. Ronald Belisario — 86.7%
  5. Andrew Bailey — 85.2%
  6. Matt Thornton — 85.0%
  7. Octavio Dotel — 83.6%
  8. Neftali Feliz — 81.8%
  9. Danys Baez — 81.8%
  10. David Aardsma — 80.9%

That missing 0.6% for Mo are just pitches the system was unable to classify for whatever reason. PitchFX ain’t perfect. Aroldis Chapman (80.1%) is right behind Aardsma while David Robertson (74.6%), Rafael Soriano (70.2%), Joba Chamberlain (63.0%), and Boone Logan (55.3%) rank 34th, 61st, 140th, and 192nd, respectively. The most used pitch by a reliever since 2008 is Thornton’s four-seamer (82.6%) while the most used offspeed pitch is Luke Gregerson’s slider (57.8%). This shouldn’t be a surprise, but relievers have far more success relying on what amounts to one type of pitch than starters. Mo just takes it to the extreme.

Categories : Mailbag
Comments (33)

The great Josh Norris posted a collection of quotes from a scout on various members of this year’s Low-A Charleston roster this afternoon. The scout sung the praises of C Gary Sanchez and OF Mason Williams, but wasn’t a fan of either OF Tyler Austin or SS Cito Culver. It a short but fun read, so make sure you give it a click.

Categories : Asides, Minors
Comments (23)

Yesterday it was the big leaguers, today it’s the minor leaguers. Baseball America published their best tools survey today (subs. req’d), polling managers and other personnel about the game’s best aspiring Major Leaguers. OF Tyler Austin and C Gary Sanchez headline the crop of Yankees farmhands by being named the Best Hitting Prospect and Best Power Prospect in the Low-A South Atlantic League, respectively. The survey was conducted prior to their promotions to High-A Tampa.

Other Yankees prospects getting love include the Double-A Eastern League trio of OF/DH Cody Johnson (Best Power Prospect), OF Abe Almonte (Fastest Baserunner), and RHP Brett Marshall (Best Changeup). OF Mason Williams was dubbed the Best Defensive Outfielder in the Sally League as well. RHP Mark Montgomery got beat out for the High-A Florida State League Best Reliever crown by Futures Gamer RHP Bruce Rondon. For shame.

Categories : Asides, Minors
Comments (4)