After a breakout season that began at Low-A Charleston and ended two levels higher in Double-A Trenton, Tyler Austin has become one of the hottest names in the Yankees farm system. Initially drafted as a catcher when he was selected in the 13th round of the 2010 draft, Austin never appeared in a professional game at the position. Instead, Austin split time between first base and third base during the first year of his professional career.
When Austin got his chance to start at third base in 2011, he struggled quite a bit defensively, recording six errors in 64 chances over the course of 24 games. After the season, it was determined that Austin would be moved out of the infield and become a regular right fielder when 2012 began, partially because of his defense and partially because of the presence of third baseman and former first round pick Dante Bichette, Jr. at Class-A Charleston.
In 2012, Austin broke out as one of the best prospects in the Yankees’ system, as his strong bat and defensive play in right field earned him honors as MiLB’s Breakout Player of the Year. Now, with Alex Rodriguez requiring his second hip surgery in four years and Bichette struggling mightily in his first full season, many began to wonder if the Yankees would shift Austin back to third base in an attempt to make him their third baseman of the future.
“He’s a better defender in right,” vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said when asked to weigh in on the possibility. “But (putting him back at third) is something we’ve thought about. It’s a possibility.”
Austin, who was rated as the fourth-best prospect in the Yankees’ organization by Baseball America in November, is likely to split outfield time with Slade Heathcott, Ramon Flores, and Rob Segedin with the Thunder in 2013. Segedin also was a third baseman before being converted to a corner outfielder, and could be an option for Trenton at the hot corner in 2013. Austin may also see a little bit of time at first base, where he played in the Eastern League playoffs last season. The 21-year-old prospect hit .322/.400/.559 over three separate levels last season.
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