2018 Pinstripe Preview: Tyler Austin
With the recent news of Greg Bird’s surgery, the first base spot for the Yankees is suddenly wide open. Bird is expected to be out of the lineup for six-to-eight weeks, and with only a couple of days until Opening Day, it looks like Neil Walker and Tyler Austin will platoon at first base for the duration of Bird’s recovery. It seems like a long time since Austin’s debut home run that just climbed over the corner of the right-field wall back in 2016, a day that is marked as the arrival of the Baby Bombers after Aaron Judge went back to back with Austin in the Bronx. Austin has bounced back and forth between the pros and minors since that day and looks to finally get a shot to secure himself a spot on the major league roster.
|ADAM HUNGER — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS|
Minor League (AAA, AA): 52 G, .286/.357/.920, 33 RBI, 10 HR, 15 2B, 3 3B
Major League: 20 G, .225/.283/.708 8 RBI, 2 HR, 2 2B
Tyler Austin hoped to beat out Chris Carter to be the righty backup to Greg Bird at first base coming out of spring training in 2017, but a broken foot injury cost him six weeks, and his big league roster spot for most of the season. After Greg Bird hit the DL with his first foot surgery, Austin was finally able to get back to the Bronx in late June, playing in four games before again landing on the DL with a hamstring injury. Austin again returned to the majors in August for a six-game stretch right before Bird returned from injury, but after that short stretch, he was relegated a bench player to end the regular season, appearing in only ten games after that.
As disappointing as his major league season was, his minor league season showed what the Yankees brass sees in the Georgia native. Austin was great in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, showing a nice blend of power and discipline that put him on a pace for a 20+ home run season in the minors. However, like his major league career, Austin has to stay healthy in 2018 if he wants to stick around in the big leagues.
The Yankees' 12th ranked prospect once again has a chance to prove himself at the Major League level, as he could be the righty counterpart to the switching-hitting Neil Walker at first base. Austin had a mediocre spring training batting .222/.314/.847 with four home runs, 6 RBI, and 14 strikeouts in 45 at-bats over 20 games.
With the depth in the Yankees farm system, he won’t have a long leash if he starts to struggle, as players like Billy McKinney and Miguel Andujar have the versatility to play first base in a platoon situation and have better track records as a hitter in recent weeks. All of this said, Michael Kay of ESPN/YES has a source that thinks Bird’s recovery won’t take the full six-to-eight weeks, which means the Yankees will likely let Austin’s major league stint play out as long as he is performing. Look for Austin to finish out his month or so in the majors and perhaps stick around some in a bench player role, but besides that, it doesn't seem like there is much room for the first baseman on the roster as currently constructed.
Article by: Maxx HottonFollow @getinhottonhere