New York Yankees outfield prospect Tyler Austin burst onto the scene in 2012, covering three minor league levels, plus a rehab stint in the Gulf Coast League. Austin led the Yankees’ system in batting average for the second straight year, and vaulted himself into the top five on Baseball America’s annual prospect rankings for each system. I got a chance to sit down with him last week as the Trenton Thunder’s homestand was winding down.
Last year, you worked your way from Low-A all the way up to Trenton at the end of the season. What did you see in terms of different competition levels, and what did you take from each level?
Well, you know, coming up here, it was big for me just because you get a feel for this league last season. Personally, I don’t think there’s too much difference, it’s still the same game. The players are a little bit better, the pitchers are a little bit better, but at the end of the day, it’s still the same game and I gotta go out and have fun and just enjoy it and everything’ll take care of itself.
On Sunday, you had your biggest game of the year so far. Is there anything you can take from that and does having that one big game help propel you towards a hot streak over the rest of the year?
I hope so. We’ll see. The first few games, I’ve just been trying to do too much. I’m just trying to um, really be the hero every game and that’s not the case with this team. This team, 1 through 9 can hit, everybody on our staff can pitch, they’re all fantastic players, um, love playing with these guys. But um, it’s, hopefully it’ll bring me through and get me started, get me going well.
Now you talk about trying to do too much. Obviously with your big season last year, you broke onto the prospect scene in terms of being considered in the Top-5 by almost every magazine out there. Is that something that gets to be too much sometimes? At the same time, do you think that having that sort of attention put towards you now will help you when you do finally get to New York?
Well, you know, I don’t pay too much attention to those prospect lists. I mean, it’s awesome to be on there, but I don’t think it adds any pressure to me. I’m just putting it all on myself, honestly. It’s just thinking too much and not having fun while I’m out there, and just, well, that’s the big thing for me. If I go out there and have fun and play the game that I know how to, then everything’ll be okay and [I can] stop worrying about results and just play and have fun.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but you were drafted as a catcher, or rather, you played catcher in high school.
The Yankees moved you to third base, and then to right field, and I saw you play first base a couple times last year. Does finally being settled into right field and finally having your position established, is that something that helps you focus going forward?
Not really. I mean, I’m comfortable at third, first, right field and um, wherever they put me in the lineup that day, I’m going to go [out and] play to the best of my ability. But, right field is great. I love playing right field, it’s a lot of fun. But it’s the same if I were to go out first base or third base, I’d go out there and play to the best of my ability and have fun while I was doing it.
One final question. You got to spend a little bit of time in Major League camp this spring. What was the experience like, and were you able to take any lessons from there to translate into your own game?
The biggest thing for me when I was over there was just to lay low and watch what those guys were doing. I mean, it’s not every day you get to see these guys play and do what they do on a day in and day out basis. But it was just fun for me to go over there and watch and see how they can flip the switch real quick, meaning, one minute [they] joke around with you, it’s their turn to go get a rep in, they’re 100 percent locked in at all times when it’s their time to get their rep in. It was fun to watch, fun to be around, and [I’m] just blessed that I had an opportunity to go over there with those guys.
Was there anyone there who really took you under their wing and gave you some guidance?
Well, I mean, not really, but like I said, I just tried to lay low. Brett Gardner was one guy who talked to me a lot. [And] Ichiro. They gave me a little bit of advice here and there, but not too many things because like I said, I was trying to lay low, and enjoy the time, and watch them.
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