The next prospect up for review is Jay Austin of the Houston Astros.
How Acquired: Drafted by the Houston Astros in the 2nd round of the 2008 amateur draft.
Age as of 4/1/11: 20
Scouting Reports and Statistics
Tm Lg Lev G R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG Lancaster CALL A+ 131 83 139 25 13 10 59 54 20 39 126 .261 .314 .414
The Astros’ minor league system is really pretty thin at this point. Jordan Lyles was pretty much the consensus #1 prospect on nearly every ranking I read, but I wrote about him last year. Delino DeShields Jr was at #2 on many of the lists, but as a high school draftee I didn’t really want to write about him. A prospect who jumped out at me when I started doing my research was Jay Austin, although I’ll be honest with you, I don’t remember why.
Austin spent his 3rd professional season in Lancaster in the California League, where he posted what at first seemed like some excellent numbers. He had 48 extra base hits and 54 stolen bases, both of which jump out at me. However, once I started looking into Austin a bit more, I’m not liking what I have found.
The most glaring problem that stands out to me is his plate discipline. Austin has never really shown a particularly good ability to take a walk, and his numbers really fell off in 2010. He has drawn a total of 89 walks in 287 games, and has struck out 274 times, including a ridiculous 126 times in 2010. These numbers might actually be reasonable if Austin were a power hitter, and you were going to get 30-40 home run potential to go with it. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Austin hit 10 home runs last year, and with half of his games at Lancaster, his numbers should be better. The park factor for Lancaster home runs last year was 1.39, and 1.22 as a weighted 3-year average. Basically, the park is good for about 20% more home runs than the league average. While this number would balance out over the span of the season, I’m not sold his home run total will improve much, or necessarily even hold. This is especially damning to me when I look at his 2009 homeruns (1), and the park factors for his home stadium of Lexington (1.13 for both numbers). Now, he can definitely be developing power, but his skill set doesn’t really profile as that being very likely.
Austin’s calling card is definitely his speed, as he stole 54 bases last year in 74 attempts. Here’s what David Coleman over at Crawfish Boxes had to say about him last year:
More and more, Austin profiles very similarly to Michael Bourn. While Bourn walked more at the lower levels of the minor leagues, Austin has more power. Bourn has him beat in stolen base percentage, but Austin is younger than Bourn was at this level. Bourn skipped High A ball completely, advancing to Double-A in his Age 22 season but suffered through his worst minor league campaign that year. Austin is young and in an advanced league, yet has shown no real dips in his averages from past seasons.
Based on the things I’ve been reading, Austin seems like he still has some potential, but he’s definitely going to have his work cut out for him. He will be 20 years old this season, and needs to make significant strides in terms of plate discipline to continue his advancement.
Prediction for 2011
.260/.300/.390, 7 HR, 45 SB (AA)
Based on his progress, I think we could see Austin in the Majors by 2013. This seems like a big leap of faith at the moment though, as he will need to continue to perform and improve on his skill set while doing so. I’m not sold he’s going to make it at all though.