I wrote this two weeks ago…
I do wonder if the combination of A-Rod’s continued breakdown and Dante Bichette Jr.’s miserable season will make the Yankees consider moving Tyler Austin back to third base. He was drafted as a catcher and moved to third immediately as a pro, but this season the team shifted him to right field in part due to the presence of Bichette at the same level. Austin has the bat for any position and if he can handle the hot corner defensively, it’s something they should seriously consider. At the same time, there’s no much going right with Austin that you don’t want to screw it up by having him change positions yet again.
Chad Jennings reported this two days ago…
This winter, the Yankees at least considered the idea of moving Austin back to third base, but they ultimately decided to keep him in right field for the time being.
“He’s a better defender in right,” vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said. “But (putting him back at third) is something we’ve thought about. It’s a possibility.”
Austin, 21, is arguably the team’s best prospect. I don’t think he is, but you can definitely make the argument. He just wrapped up a monster 2012 season, hitting .322/.400/.559 with 17 homers and 23 steals (in 25 chances) while climbing from Low-A Charleston to Double-A Trenton. Although he only has 148 plate appearances with High-A Tampa to his credit, it’s likely Austin will open next season back in Trenton.
The Yankees have an obvious need for a long-term third base solution. Twenty third baseman have posted a 100 wRC+ or better over the last three seasons (min. 1,000 PA), but eight of those guys have since changed positions or retired. There are a lot of teams out there in need of help at the hot corner, which is why Mike Olt has been popular on the trade rumor circuit for roughly a year now. New York’s best hope for a homegrown third baseman right now is probably David Adams, who has 37 career games at the position and profiles far better at second base.
Third base and right field are right next to each other on the defensive spectrum and there isn’t much value to be gained by moving a player from right to third. Maybe the gap on the defensive spectrum is bigger for the Yankees since right field in Yankee Stadium is quite tiny, but I don’t think it makes a huge difference. We’re not talking about moving a guy from left to catcher or from the bullpen into the rotation or something. If Austin is truly better defensively in right like Newman says, then his value is greater with solid defense in right than with adequate or worse defense at third.
Austin took well to right field last season and, frankly, the Yankees need a long-term right fielder as well. Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, and the oft-overlooked Ramon Flores do give the club a bevy of potential outfield solutions though, and of course there are three different outfield spots to fill. The more I think about it the more I agree with what I wrote two weeks ago, that there is so much going right with Austin that I wouldn’t risk screwing him up somehow by asking him to change positions yet again. The Yankees apparently feel the same way, and ultimately the most important thing is that he keeps hitting and progressing offensively. If he does that, his bat will fit anywhere.