Giants: Former slugger Tyler Austin could be a star in Japan
By Joel Reuter
Former San Francisco Giants first baseman/outfielder is taking his talents to Japan, and he could be a star in Nippon Professional Baseball.
The San Francisco Giants rolled the dice on Tyler Austin early in the 2019 season, acquiring him in a trade with the Minnesota Twins after he was designated for assignment.
The 27-year-old offered some intriguing upside after slugging 17 home runs in 268 plate appearances during the 2018 season, and the power-hungry Giants gave him a shot.
Unfortunately, he was unable to secure a long-term role in San Francisco, hitting just .185/.279/.400 with a 38.8 percent strikeout rate in 147 plate appearances before he was cut loose.
After closing out the 2019 season with the Milwaukee Brewers, he was outrighted off the 40-man roster and elected free agency.
While he likely would have been able to secure a minor league deal and a spring training invite from an MLB team, he will instead be heading to Japan.
There’s a long history of sluggers who couldn’t make enough consistent contact to fully tap into their power stateside finding success with a move to Japan.
Outfielder Jabari Blash is an excellent example.
Blash posted a .946 OPS with 32 home runs in 116 games in the upper levels of the Seattle Mariners farm system in 2015, and the San Diego Padres scooped him up in the Rule 5 draft during the subsequent offseason.
While he continued to post strong numbers in the minors, including a .317/.431/.700 line and 29 home runs in 83 games at Triple-A in 2018, he struggled in limited MLB action.
In 324 plate appearances over three seasons, he hit .186/.306/.307 with eight home runs and a 38.3 percent strikeout rate.
He signed with the Rakuten Golden Eagles last offseason and immediately took the Japanese League by storm, hitting .261/.397/.540 and slugging 33 home runs to finish tied for eighth in NPB.
A similar path is entirely possible for Austin in 2020, so he’ll be worth keeping an eye on.