Austin might have been the most disappointing prospect this year, after a 2012 in which he tore up both the SAL and FSL (A and High-A). He struggled to stay healthy in 2013, playing in just 83 games due to wrist issues.
I also wrote a Austin’s prospect profile for Pinstripe Alley this winter. My conclusion:
As a corner outfielder who doesn’t run particularly well, Austin’s near the bottom of the defensive spectrum, meaning he’ll need to hit to have any sort of prolonged big league career. Mike Newman of FanGraphs compared Austin to Ryan Ludwick – not the sexiest of comparisons, but still a solid big leaguer. This comp feels about right to me if Austin can recoup a good chunk the power he showed two years ago. Otherwise, he’s probably nothing more than a platoon or bench player going forward.
Compiled a list of comps — players who put up similar numbers (BB%, K%, and ISO) in the Eastern league at a similar age.
This analysis cuts right to the bottom line — it considers what a player did in his most recent year and churns out a list of players who performed similarly. There are some obvious limitations to this approach. For one thing, it only considers a hitter’s offensive performance and completely ignores defensive position and ability, so some of the comps will have very different defensive profiles. Additionally, this analysis only considers 2013 stats and does not take into account a player’s performance from previous seasons. Finally, in no way does it take into account things like scouting reports, which provide insight into a player’s future performance. Still, this gives us some living, breathing examples of players with similar offensive track records and hopefully gives us an idea of some possible career trajectories.
For reference, a corner outfielder with average defense who posts a 100 wRC+ is worth about 1.5 WAR over a full season — essentially a platoon player. The more similar comps are at the top of the list:
*Active with at least a reasonable chance of playing in the majors some time in the future
Frankly, Michael Bourn is really the only interesting player on this list. Bourn’s developed into a solid player, but derives most of his value from his speed and defense — tools that Austin just doesn’t have. If Austin hits like Bourn, he’ll be nothing more than replacement-level fodder. Austin’s top three comps flamed out before ever reaching the big leagues, which is a bit concerning. To be fair though, Austin was playing hurt for much of last year, so his 2013 stat line my not be reflective of his talent level. The more sophisticated projection systems — which take into account prior years — have much more favorable comps for Austin.
Austin Kearns: 104 wRC+
Kevin Mitchell: 140 wRC+
Tim Moore: career minor-leaguer
Carlos Gonzalez: 125 wRC+
Domonic Brown: 107 wRC+
Caleb Gindl: 115 wRC+
Wladimir Balentien: 72 wRC+
Pat Tabler: 100 wRC+