Trenton Thunder outfielder Tyler Austin was named as the fans choice for the MiLB Breakout Prospect of the Year yesterday (Wednesday). Austin, who is arguably the most talented position prospect in the Bombers somewhat frail farm system, bolstered his stock dramatically with a torrid 2012 campaign.
Austin was selected out of Heritage High School (Georgia) in the 13th round of the 2010 draft by New York. In his first full-season in 2011, Austin raised eye brows of scouts and front office executives around baseball when he hit a combined .354 between the Gulf Coast League and the New York-Penn League and effectively placed himself on the prospect map.
Looking to build off of a promising rookie debut, Austin spent a majority of this past season playing for Charleston in the South Atlantic League (70 games, 266 at-bats) where he blasted 14 home runs and drove in 54 runs while batting a robust .320. Austin also posted a .405 on-base mark while swiping 17 of 19 bags.
After garnering All-Star honors in June for his stellar first half; Austin was promoted shortly thereafter to the Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League. Despite advancing a level and facing an influx of increased talent in the daily pitching opposition, Austin continued to swing a hot stick in Tampa. The 6’2” 200 lbs. righty batted .321 with two homers and 23 RBI through 36 games. As a table setter at the top of the order, Austin posted a .385 on-base percentage while going 6-for-6 on stolen base attempts.
Tampa’s schedule concluded at the beginning of September after failing to qualify for postseason play. As the Yankees invaded the roster of Scranton-Wilkes Barre (Triple-A) for September call-ups during their playoff run, it sent a domino affect down the organizational ladder and sent many of the Thunders key components up to Triple A.
After posting a 79-63 record to capture the Eastern Division crown, the Thunder were suddenly left with massive holes in their lineup and rotation heading into postseason play against the suddenly surging division-rival Reading Phillies. To compensate for the loss in offensive production, specifically the 25 home runs and 68 home runs from Luke Murton at first base; the Yankees summoned Austin to Trenton as an added bullet in the Thunders holster.
Out of necessity, Trenton Manager Tony Franklin summoned Austin to man the first base bag for the first time consistently in his professional career. Austin did an admirable job, making a few pivotal defensive plays over the course of the postseason. Despite hitting just .214 for the playoffs in limited at bats, the speedy 21-year old gave the organization a quick glance at what may ultimately be a future cornerstone to their outfield in the Bronx. The experience that Austin attained after battling in the trenches of the advanced levels of the minor leagues could prove to pay huge dividends in his continued development and maturation heading into the 2013 season for Trenton.
As the final chapter was finally written and the book was closed on the 2012 campaign, Tyler Austin hit a combined .322 with 17 home runs and 80 RBI with a .400 on-base figure while stealing 23 of 25 bases over 413 at-bats.
When asked in late August which player in the Yankees farm system grasped his attention and stood out to him this past season, General Manager Brian Cashman unequivocally responded that it was Austin.
“I think it was Tyler Austin,” admitted Cashman. “He just catapulted himself up the prospect list with what he did down in Charleston and obviously carried it up into Tampa. He has to have the high mark…he was a prospect, but now he’s made himself a mega-prospect.”