Prospect Q&A: Yankees Slugger Tyler Austin Answers Five Questions about Playing Right Field
If you think Tyler Austin — who went from 13th-round pick in 2010 to one of the best Minor League hitters in 2012 — will rest on his laurels in 2013, consider that he’s been in Tampa, Fla. since Jan. 15. That’s when his Spring Training began.
I caught up with the Yankees’ No. 3 — and baseball’s No. 75 — prospect (bio, stats here) on Friday evening to ask him about how his transition from the infield to right field is going. (A colleague of mine spoke with Austin, 21, in a more wide-ranging interview on Jan. 22 if you’d like a read.)
On his transition from 3B/1B in 2011 to RF in 2012: “At first, I was a little skeptical about it. I didn’t know what to think. I had never played right field before. If I had, it was maybe for an inning or so. But I took to it well. I really couldn’t be more comfortable out there now after this past season, the way I played, the way I performed out there. It was just awesome, in my mind, the way I took to the position.”
On how long it took him to feel comfortable in RF: “It was probably — after about a month of early minicamp and stuff like that, I was pretty comfortable out there. A lot of times, it was my routes [that needed improvement]. I was circling the ball a lot, not taking a direct path to it. That was probably the hardest thing for me out there. It goes back to [practicing] during BP, that’s as close as you’re going to get to game-like [fielding]. I take a lot of pride in doing that and doing it well and trying to do it every day. It’s gradually gotten easier and easier.”
On his strengths as an outfielder: “I would say definitely my arm. I think when the ball is hit to me and the runner is on second base or third and they’re tagging, I think the [third base] coaches are, hopefully, a little bit hesitant to send their guys, knowing that I’m fixing to throw. I love that [game situation]. That’s probably one of my favorite things of being out there.”
On his mindset when Class A Charleston/Class A Advanced Tampa teammate Mason Williams is playing next to him in CF: “Honestly, I’m going after every ball as hard as I can, and I’m going to try my best to get there, but it definitely takes a little off my shoulders, knowing that he’s going to be right there to make the play if I’m not able to get to it.”
On who he’ll man the outfield with in 2013: “I’m just looking forward to playing this season either with [Williams] or Slade Heathcott. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a good year. Hopefully, I’ll be in New York later on down the season.”