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Tyler Austin's hot start has him shooting up prospect lists (Photo Credit: Yankees Fans Unite)
Coming into this season, only those who had extensively followed the Yankees minor league system had likely heard of Rob Segedin and Tyler Austin. Both were mediocre defensive third basemen in an organization where Alex Rodriguez was the present, and former 1st round pick Dante Bichette, Jr. was the future. For that reason, the shift to the outfield for the start of the 2012 season was a welcome change for both Segedin, 23, and Austin, 20.
Austin, a 13th round pick in the 2010 draft, cracked a lot of top-15 lists for Yankees prospects this year and has vaulted himself into the discussion as an elite prospect with his hot start to the season. Through 33 games so far in Charleston, Austin is hitting .298 with 11 HR and 31 RBI. He’s flashed good speed with four triples already on the season. Most notably, his OPS (on-base plus slugging) is a whopping 1.046. Austin’s glove has improved with the position switch as well. With 28 games in the outfield, he has recorded just one error on the season over forty-six chances to make a play. At 20 years old, his future looks to be very bright, and it can even be argued that his name belongs in the discussion with other top position prospects, such as Mason Williams and Gary Sanchez. If he keeps up at this pace, I can’t see him not being consistently in the top 10 when lists are re-released this summer.
Just one level above Austin is Rob Segedin, a 23-year old who spent time playing for Tulane University prior to being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft by the Yankees. He wasn’t anywhere near as high on anyone’s list, primarily because of his age and the level he was starting at. Segedin tore up Charleston last season, but when promoted to Tampa, he struggled both at the plate (.245/.311/.309) and defensively (.938 Fld% at 3B). Slated to start at Tampa again this season, Segedin was penciled in for a shift to right field and to fill the third spot in the lineup. Segedin has excelled in this role – through 31 games, he’s at .300 with 5 HR and 21 RBI. He’s currently leading Tampa in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in. Segedin’s also showed a little bit of speed, stealing six bases without getting caught this year. The glove hasn’t been phenominal, but he’s getting there. Through 25 appearances in the outfield, Segedin has just three errors in 47 chances. Since he’s already 23, time is of the essence for Segedin to move forward. Though if he keeps hitting at this rate, a promotion to Double-A Trenton should be in order sooner rather than later.
Both Segedin and Austin have shown that the bats are ready to move up, yet they are still improving with the glove as they spend their first full seasons in the outfield. In regards to promotion, I think that Segedin and Austin are linked together – both are strong hitters adjusting to playing right field for the first time. When Segedin (High-A Tampa) is promoted to Double-A Trenton, I would imagine that Austin (Class-A Charleston) will be moved up to take his place. Typically, most prospects are moved up around mid-season if they are more than ready for the next level. However, with the Trenton outfield being ravished by injuries so far this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if Segedin’s there by mid-June — whether he’s fully ready or not.