Tyler Austin has been a pleasant surprise for the Yankees this season. The 26-year-old first baseman has flashed tremendous power and efficiency from the right side of the plate. Austin has 20 hits on the season, with six home runs and 19 RBI.
Think of it this way — 30 percent of his hits have resulted in home runs. If he gets a hit, he’s likely to knock in a run. That’s amazing.
Yes, Austin has been a big part of the Yankees success’ during the first quarter of the season. But that doesn’t mean his place on the team is secure, and really, it probably isn’t. He’s probably looking at a trip back to Scranton when Greg Bird returns. Fair? No. Realistic? Yes. Let’s look at the reasons why.
He’s a platoon bat who plays one position – first base. Austin hits lefties well (.281/.351/.531) and struggles against righties (.216/.273/.529) His split the last three seasons against righties is even worse (.184/.228/.333). So yes, he can crush the ball, but as a platoon player. You can run him out to right field in a “break glass in case of emergency” situation, but he doesn’t have the type of versatility that can increase his value.
Neil Walker doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. Early on, when Walker was struggling and Austin was stroking, the talk was whether the Yankees would eat the remainder of Walker’s $4 million salary and cut him. No more. Walker has come around his last two weeks, slashing .346/.514/.462. His power isn’t there yet, but he has been hitting the ball harder lately. His power will come around. And along with his bat, he brings versatility with the ability to play first, second, third and left. And he’s a switch hitter. In a nutshell, he’s a lot that Austin isn’t.
Austin can be optioned to Scranton. Yes, the Yankees can send Austin to Scranton and not lose him. He has an option remaining – in fact, already triggered at the start of this season when he was sent down at the end of spring training, before Bird got hurt. So they can send him to Scranton, give him regular at-bats, and keep him as insurance in the event Bird gets hurt again – and until he shows otherwise that’s a good bet. Keep him in Triple-A, and bring him to camp next year as a cheap, proven platoon bat who can spell Bird against tough lefties.
Just take a look at Brandon Drury. The Yankees acquired Drury with the goal of making him the starting third baseman now and in the future. But the 25-year-old is in Scranton because he got hurt and his replacement, Miguel Andujar, has played lights out this season. When Drury finished his rehab assignment, the Yankees didn’t just bring him back; they had him take a back seat. That shows that Yankees make baseball decisions, not sentimental ones. Which means…
Austin isn’t going to knock anyone else off the roster. The backups tend to be Austin Romine, a must keep as the No. 2 catcher; Ronald Torreyes, the do-everything utility infielder; and Walker or Austin. Austin isn’t going to take any of those spots. Romine is secure because someone has to back up Gary Sanchez. Torreyes has a very valuable skill set – he can sit for days on end and come out and produce. Walker has come along. That leaves Austin in the cold.
Sure, something could happen. Bird could have a setback. Walker could get hurt. Austin could all-of-a-sudden scorch righthanded pitching. But absent any of that, it looks like Austin will be the odd man out, fair or not.
Yankees 10, Rangers 5 | Bashing Bartolo
The Yankees continued their offensive surge on Monday night, hitting four or more home runs for a team-record third straight game in a 10-5 romp over the Rangers in Texas. Gleyber Torres went deep twice, and the Bronx Bombers also got dingers from Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, and Neil Walker to overcome the three homers allowed by their own pitching staff.
With the game deadlocked at four in the top of the fifth inning, Judge broke out of his 0-for-17 slump in a big way. The slugger destroyed an 85 mph fastball from Bartolo Colon, planting his 12th home run of the season on the grass berm in center field.
1. Masahiro Tanaka picked up his first win since April 28, but continues to struggle. Tanaka also allowed home runs to Joey Gallo and Rougned Odor, bringing his tally to 11 home runs allowed in 56.1 innings this season. Tanaka has a 5.91 ERA in four starts this month, allowing three or four runs in each outing. Walks also were a problem this time, as Tanaka issued a season high four free passes.
2. Torres was not even four months old when Colon made his major league debut in 1997. In 2018, the phenom crushed two home runs off the legend to bring his total to six in 96 career plate appearances. Torres is now batting .321 with an OPS of .960. The only American League rookie with more home runs than Torres is Tyler Austin, while Shohei Ohtani also has six.
3. Judge’s home run was his first since May 12, and during the time that he wasn’t going deep, the Yankees lost only one game. Granted, they had a couple of off days and rain in Washington during that stretch, but it’s a testament to how deep the Yankees’ lineup is that they can continue to thrive while Judge goes through some struggles. The Yankees lead the majors with 72 home runs in 45 games, and are scoring 5.87 runs per game – the next closest team in baseball, the Cubs at 5.39, aren’t even close.
Player of the Game
Torres is the third Yankee in as many games to hit a pair of home runs, following Austin on Sunday and Gary Sanchez the day before.