On August 13, 2016 two New York Yankee rookies would make their major league debuts and make major league history as well. For the only time in the history of baseball, two teammates would homer in their first at-bat in the majors in the same game. One of those Yankee hitters was Aaron Judge. The other was Tyler Austin.
While Aaron Judge has become a superstar, Tyler Austin has become a journeyman player, playing a bit in each season since 2016. He is now playing for the Milwaukee Brewers as a September call up after being cut loose by the San Francisco Giants earlier this year.
Austin has one enticing skill set: power. Over the past three seasons, his hard hit percentage has hovered between 43% and 46%. His problem is contact. His career strike out percentage is 37.3%, and so far this season, he is striking out better than 39% of the time.
His best season in the majors came in 2018. During that season, he played for both the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins. Between the two teams he slashed .230/.287/.480 while belting 17 home runs and posting an OPS+ of 105 over 268 plate appearances. 2019 has not been as kind. Between the Twins, Giants, and Brewers, Austin has slashed .187/.288/.403 while hitting just 8 home runs and posting an OPS+ of 81 over 153 plate appearances.
The silver lining in his 2019 came when the Brewers picked him up and sent him to San Antonio. While with the Missions, he has performed well, although the sample size is small and the stats are likely inflated by playing in the Pacific Coast League. Nonetheless, he slashed .333/.413/.611 with 4 home runs in just 63 plate appearances. Now he looks to parlay those results as bench player for the Milwaukee Brewers.
It’s been a crazy season so far for Tyler Austin, who is with his third organization with the Brewers: pic.twitter.com/nL1eIn0hoG— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) September 1, 2019
In this last month of baseball, Tyler Austin will provide a right handed power bat that can play first base; maybe getting a few spot starts. He can also provide some depth at the corner outfield spots (he played 25 games in the outfield with the Giants this season). With the tough lefties that the Chicago Cubs will throw at Milwaukee in their next series, Austin might just see a good bit of playing time.
With Austin, the Brewers are hoping to catch a “lightening in a bottle” hot streak a la Jesus Aguilar pre-All Star Break in 2018 (Austin’s hard hit rates are better than Aguilar’s, but contact rates and OBP for Aguilar are far superior). They would settle for something resembling his performance in 2018, which might just be the player that he is. What they definitely do not hope for is the type of play that got him cut from the Giants.
This is what we do know. Tyler Austin can crush a baseball, but he is going to strike out a ton while getting on base less than 30% of the time. Think of Tyler Austin as Keon Broxton without the great defense. With that in mind, expect a few spot starts, especially if Quintana or Hamels are pitching, and pinch hitting duties against left handed relievers. Prepare to be frustrated when he strikes out, especially if there are runners in scoring position, and prepare to be overjoyed when he launches baseballs into the stratosphere. And if Austin shows enough during September to earn a role with the Brewers going forward, he has four more club control years left after 2019.
Baseball statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and Baseball Savant