Scouting Yankees Prospect #35: Austin Aune

Aune has a really high offensive ceiling

The Yankees selected shortstop Austin Aune in the second round of the 2012 MLB Draft out of Argyle High School in Texas. A two-sport star in high school, one who had a commitment to play quarterback at TCU, he had been long lauded for his advanced swing and high offensive potential, and he chipped in with a solid debut season with the Gulf Coast League Yankees.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Austin Aune
Position: Shortstop
DOB: September 6, 1993
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 190
Bats: Left
Throws: Right

"One of the biggest parts about this guy is his hit tool – he is not in the category of raw athletes that need to learn how to hit," Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer told PinstripesPlus.com on draft day. "He's got hit, he's got power, and he's got a refined swing.

"If the message people are taking from reading about this pick is that we are buying "pure athlete", that's not the case at all; we're buying a guy who's a very good athlete, but who has hit skills and power."

Aune hit a very respectable .273 with fourteen extra-base hits in his first 39 professional games and was second on the team with 19 walks.

"I thought I had a good season," Aune said. "I had my ups and downs but that's what I expected going in. I didn't expect to be perfect but I had a lot of fun and overall I thought I did good."

The downs were mostly the team-high 15 errors he committed at shortstop, a position he played in high school but not one he had planned on playing after being drafted as a centerfielder.

"In high school I was a shortstop. I got drafted in centerfield but when I got down here to the [minor league] complex they told me they wanted to keep me at shortstop because they had good success teaching guys how to play the position," he said.

"Just getting to know the game better -- my angles, my hands, my footwork, being in different places, adjusting to hitters -- it's a lot of stuff and I didn't realize it was that much. I'm learning so much."

It's never easy for even the most advanced defensive amateur shortstops to learn all the nuances of playing the position at the professional level, but for now the Yankees want to at least try to develop him at shortstop and see what they have before potentially moving him to the outfield down the road because he has never really focused solely on baseball in his entire life.

"For me this is great because the last four years I've been playing football this time of year," he said. "I've never played baseball this much before so I'm at the point where I'm realizing that this is my job, I'm a professional baseball player, more months out of the year than I'm used to."

While where he eventually lands playing defensively is a wait and see proposition, the really good news is that as advanced as his swing is now, with more time being able to focus just on baseball coming up over the next few years, his offensive potential is sky-high.

"I'm totally intrigued by Aune," one National League central scout said. "I have my doubts about him at shortstop but you can just see the natural swing he has and we're talking about a guy who never really got to play baseball full-time until now.

"What's he going to look like as a hitter in a few years? I can't really say, but I would be really surprised if he's not a very good hitter and with that body who knows how good the power is going to develop too."

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2012 GCL Yankees .273 139 10 1 20 19 6 19 45 .358 .410


Batting and Power. Aune is bit of an anomaly at this point -- he's both very advanced swing-wise from the left side and very raw in experience. The bat speed is above average, borderline plus, and he has a knack for barreling the baseball. However, because of his football commitments growing up and now just beginning the professional levels, he hasn't really been exposed to the day in, day out great stuff he's going to see from advanced pitchers. The power is big league average right now with room to grow and few doubt his ability to hit for average -- he just needs the experience and ability to slow the game down.

Base Running and Speed. Aune is a good athlete overall. He's not exactly a burner, however, and his speed grades out as more average to perhaps above average than plus right now. And he's also a prime candidate to slow down some as he has the type of body that should continue to grow. He will be a double-digit base stealing threat early in his career but there are long-term question marks if he can keep that up down the road.

Defense. Aune is a below average defensive shortstop right now despite boasting very good arm strength. He is nimble and agile enough to handle the duties, and even shows decent range, but he has very little feel for the position, so much so that a switch to another position, most likely the outfield, seems inevitable at the current time.

Projection. Aune's projection is a bit muddied at this point because it remains to be seen where he will settle position-wise defensively, although the smart money says the outfield. For now his bat is the advanced tool and it has such an intriguing blend of polish and still a lot of room for growth that even projecting where he could eventually fit into a big league lineup proves difficult. In a lot of ways he compares favorably to a Mark Kotsay type, one who could potentially have a higher ceiling if things break right but also one who could fit into a lineup in a few different ways.

ETA. N/A. How quickly Aune ascends through the minor leagues will depend mostly on where he settles positionally. If the Yankees keep him at shortstop for now, he will most likely move slower. He is most likely headed back to the short-season leagues again in 2013, perhaps even with a return trip to the Gulf Coast League in his immediate future.

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