Austin Stepping It Up

Austin is hitting .338 in his last 16 games

TRENTON, NJ - For Tyler Austin, it has been a year of focus, hard work, and dedication to transforming from a good hitter to being a great one with the Double-A Trenton Thunder. There have been a few ups and downs in his progression throughout the season, but the 21-year-old has stepped his game up lately and is showing why he's a top outfield prospect in the Yankees farm system.

One of the challenges he faced early this 2013 season was being too aggressive at the plate.

"I was definitely a free swinger and tried to do too much up there," Austin said. "I was swinging at pitches I definitely shouldn't have been, but lately, I've been swinging less. So I've been waiting more to get a pretty good pitch to hit here and there and trying to put a good swing on it."

Trenton hitting coach Justin Turner has seen a lot of minor league players struggle early in their seasons with plate discipline and selectivity of pitches to hit. Austin was part of the list.

"I think like anybody, he wants to get off to a good start," Turner said. "And when he's not getting as many hits, he thinks the best way is to swing out of it.

"We talked and said that instead of swinging more, swing less. Get a good pitch and stop settling for something close early in the count. Be patient enough to get something that you can hit well."

Lately, Austin has found a groove at the plate. He is 14 for his last 42 [.333 average] and has at least a hit in eight of his last nine games, including four multi-hit games.

"He's hitting the ball really well," Thunder manager Tony Franklin said. "I'm starting to see the things everyone talked about earlier in the year. When you start to settle in, you do better, and that's what's starting to happen with Tyler.

"He is looking very comfortable at home plate, he's having very good at-bats where he's not giving them away, and not chasing as many pitches out of the strike zone."

When going from single-A baseball to the Double-A level, the quality of the pitching is a challenge for many hitters, like Austin, to get accustomed to.

"That's been the biggest thing all year," Austin said. "It's been about getting adjusted to these pitchers and trying to figure them out. I've started to figure them out maybe a little bit lately, but still it's going to take a while and there is still a progression period. I've got to continue to get better."

Being a former minor leaguer himself and observing the ways of the baseball world, Franklin knows that these adjustments are common for some of the best up and coming players.

Baseball requires a lot of thought and mental strength, and Austin has displayed a development in that recently.

"It' a matter of being comfortable with yourself, with the league, with what pitchers are trying to do to you, and pitching you haven't seen before," Franklin said. "Tyler has made the adjustment not so much physically, but mentally.

"This is a thinking man's game. Always has been and always will be. You've got to put a little thought into what guys as well as coaches are trying to do to you."

To address his aggressive habit at the plate, it hasn't been a matter of adjusting his swing after seeing video, but practicing often to fix his tendencies.

"I haven't changed up anything with my swing," Austin said. "I've just been more patient up there and I have worked hard in cage work to do the right things. You're going to strike out, get hits, walk, and it's a tough game. So I haven't changed anything other than my mindset really."

Month by month, he hit .253 in April, .262 in May, and has batted .333 in June. That being said, he has a .271 overall batting average, with five homers and 36 runs batted in.

"I think [Tyler's] struggles got over-analyzed a little bit," Turner said. "He's hitting about .270 with 5 homers and over 30 RBIs, so if that's struggling, I'd like to struggle like that.

"This is a talented player; a kid that can make an impact at the Major League level for a long time. He's a very intelligent hitter and he's going to see pitchers in this league again. And guys that got him out before will have a tough time getting him out a second time."

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