- Full name Joseph Edward Austin
- Born 08/10/1990 in Atlanta, GA
- Profile Ht.: 5'11" / Wt.: 170 / Bats: L / Throws: L
- School North Atlanta
Drafted in the 2nd round (56th overall) by the Houston Astros in 2008 (signed for $715,000).
View Draft ReportA teammate of Avery in the East Cobb League, Austin is an athletic outfielder in a draft short on players of his mold. A center fielder with above-average speed and a lefthanded swing, Austin has scouts intrigued with his potential to be a five-tool player at the big league level. He has added power to his game this spring after physically maturing and incorporating his lower half more into his swing. He has plus bat speed and has shown ability to make consistent contact at the high school level. The team that drafts him will be betting that Austin will continue to hit into the pros as the other tools needed are present. Austin can even throw 90 mph off the mound, giving him a plus arm in the outfield. He is still somewhat raw but has a ceiling and would be a great pick for a team with multiple selections early in the draft.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Inside and outside the organization, scouts were stunned at the lack of athleticism in Houston's farm system when Bobby Heck took over as scouting director. Starting with his first draft in 2008, Heck has emphasized athleticism, often over instincts, and Austin is perhaps the greatest example of this. Houston signed him away from a Southern California scholarship for a $715,000 bonus, and he remains one of the system's best athletes. However, he has put in two full seasons and remains green, raw and unskilled. His bat has lagged behind as he struggles in many aspects. He remains both undisciplined and poor at pitch recognition. He hasn't picked up bunting yet, nor has he become the student of the game he needs to be. His pure talent has gotten him this far, as he slaps pitches the other way and uses his well above-average speed to beat out hits and steal bases. He led the high Class A California League with 54 steals last season (though he was caught 20 times) and plays a strong center field, with good range that could become better with improved jumps and routes. Austin's arm has backed up as a pro, and is merely fringy though he once hit 90 mph off the mound as an amateur. He's young and his numbers weren't stunning for Lancaster, so he could return there to begin 2011.
Some Astros officials thought Austin might begin 2009 in extended spring training after he struggled mightily in his pro debut. Instead, he broke camp with Lexington and was the youngest everyday player in the South Atlantic League. After he batted .245/.296/.308 in the first half, he hit .291/.346/.418 after the all-star break. Austin is the best athlete in the system. He has well-above-average pure speed, which gives him the potential to be a quality basestealer and center fielder. At the plate, he has a compact stroke and good bat speed. Austin's bat is a major question mark, as he has issues with pitch recognition and doesn't adjust against breaking balls. His power is well-below-average, and he lacks the strength and loft in his swing to project that he'll add much more. His speed doesn't play as well in game situations because he doesn't get out of the box quickly or have much feel for stealing bases or getting good jumps and routes in the outfield. He has a fringe-average arm. Austin will begin 2010 in high Class A, where he'll try to build on his second-half success. He has enticing tools, but he has a lot of refining to do if he's going to be more than an extra outfielder in the major leagues.
Austin was one of the youngest players in the Rookie-level Appalachian League last year, which is why the Astros aren't fretting too much about the meager offensive production in his pro debut. He hit 50 home runs in his prep career and committed to Southern California before choosing instead to sign for a $715,000 bonus. While Houston has a few toolsy outfielders in its system, none have the same all-around potential as Austin. A lefthanded hitter and center fielder, he has the range to patrol the middle garden, the bat to handle leadoff and speed that could make him a major basestealing threat. His swing is fluid and quick and he shows good hand-eye coordination. His tendency for now is to hit line drives with some power to the gaps. He's a plus out of the box with 4.1-second times down the line and seems to skate, grading out as a 70 runner underway. Austin tried carrying over his home run-hitting from high school and racked up the strikeouts. He just needs to trust his tools and not worry about swinging for the fences. Scouts found that he tends to cheat in his approach as he leans forward with his body, although it's not exactly a lunge. A good curveball can wipe him out. In the outfield, he's learning to track fly balls and to take better routes. He has a below-average arm, but a weight and conditioning program could add some power to his throws. One scout compared Austin to Michael Bourn, not as fast but with a better bat. The Astros plan to station Austin with the Lexington workout group in spring training. Because he is so young and raw, they acknowledge he could benefit from a stay in extended spring training before returning to short-season ball, however.
Minor League Top Prospects
Though he struggled to make contact in his debut, Austin hit hard line drives when he did connect. The Astros' second-round pick in June, he maintained his composure and gave a consistent effort in the field and on the bases, regardless of his fortunes at the plate. Austin has a chance to be a good hitter if he can learn to shorten his swing and use the opposite field. He also would benefit from improving his bunting ability so he could take advantage of his speed. His power potential is fringy, but he's an above-average runner with the instincts to make him a prolific and efficient basestealer. A premium quick-twitch athlete, Austin is a plus defender in center field and has average arm strength.
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Athlete in the Houston Astros in 2010
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the Houston Astros in 2010
- Rated Best Athlete in the Houston Astros in 2009
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the Houston Astros in 2009