Jay Austin is a name which we Astro fans know (maybe) but I'm willing to guess most minor league baseball fans do not. He is a 20 year old outfielder whose age is probably his most defining characteristic to this point in his career. He just finished his third season of professional baseball with the Astros organization to mixed results. True, Austin accumulated double digit doubles (25), triples (13) and home runs (10) in his 532 AB for Lancaster to go with his 91 singles. His OPS has risen for the third consecutive season too- all the way up to .727 in the offensive environs of the California League. On the negative side, he strikes out quite a bit for a guy who probably won't hit for much power, and as is the hallmark of most Astro minor league hitters, he walks infrequently.
This shouldn't really surprise anyone who has kept up with the drafting strategies of Ed Wade and Bobby Heck though. These two value athleticism as much as any front office around, and often this trait takes precedence over patience/plate discipline. With Austin, we have seen him handle the Cal League with some success while being under 19 for much of the season. This is not the norm, and it should leave us optimistic that given the opportunity to have a repeat season at a level he will be able to build on the prior season's accomplishments. Assumedly this will happen for Jay in 2011, as it would make sense to allow him another crack at high A ball to hone every facet of his game. He will still be on the young side of things as far as A+ players are concerned leaving the projectors plenty of room to create a future for this kid.
So while his future is to be determined, I would like to think that what he has already done should matter in the minds of those who rank minor league players. Yes, these rankings are subjective to some extent and the misses are more plentiful than the hits. What they are able to do is generate discussion and put player's seasons into perspective. An interesting ranking I came across on Friday was this one, ranking the top 2000 minor league performances of the 2010 season. The key to the rankings is this, as the creator says:
Before you tear into me too much, this is a flawed list if you are looking for the best prospects in baseball as Bryce Harper among others aren't on it. Some of these guys have graduated as well, but I have yet to update that. This is a statistical evaluation of players how they performed compared to their league. This is based on a ton of research to find out which skills a player needs to have to be a future MLB PLAYER not a superstar. I have advanced my formula this year to a much more accurate level in my opinion.
This list does not take into account ANY factors other than age and statistics. Nothing based on draft status, bonus, tools, ability, potential...nothing. I essentially copy the players stat line from Baseball Reference and paste it into the formulas to come up with one overall value.
Bearing this in mind, look where Jay Austin winds up- #12 overall. Impressive. Again, this doesn't mean he's the twelfth best prospect in the minors. What it does mean is that Astros fans' excitement surrounding the young outfielder is far from misplaced. If this ranking is any indication, Austin has a good a chance as any minor leaguer from 2010 of becoming an Astro in the near future. Exciting, indeed. I love outside the box thinking like the person who created this list exhibited. I would be intrigued to see the exact equation he used, and how he plans on tinkering with it. What we can all take away from this is that Jay Austin outperformed his peers by leaps and bounds in the Cal League, to say the very least.
Our guy was also kind enough to break things down by League. Some other Astros of note and their ranking in their particular league:
|Jonathan Villar||SS||A-||South Atlantic||12|
|Jio Mier||SS||A-||South Atlantic||16|
|Tanner Bushue||SP||A-||South Atlantic||37|
|Enrique Hernandez||2B||Short||NY Penn||4|
|Austin Wates||RF||Short||NY Penn||37|
|Delino DeShields, Jr.||CF||Rookie||Appalachian||4|
|Jimmy Paredes||2B||A-||South Atl.||32|
Again, just as Jay Austin's impressive ranking shouldn't lead us to believe he's going to be the next star outfielder for the Astros, we shouldn't close faith in Dallas Keuchel or Jio Mier because they didn't exactly dominate in their league this past season. This list leaves plenty of room for debate, which will hopefully make for some good weekend commenting.