Nelson Cruz (through age 26)
145 games, 478 PA, .231/.282/.385, OPS+ 72, 119K, 30BB, no defensive value
Tyler Austin (through age 26)
120 games, 404 PA, .232/.290/.469, OPS+ 100, 148K, 30BB, no defensive value
Cruz spent most of his age 27 season in the minors, but came up in August and was great for 31 games on the way to becoming the ongoing monster that now has 360 career HRs.
I'm not saying Austin is the second coming of Nelson Cruz, but those numbers put an interesting spin on the conversation for me.
The young Nelson Cruz was really a pretty good corner outfielder.
Also note that at age 24 he hit .306/.388/.577 in AA, .269/.382/.490 in AAA. At 25, he hit .302/.378/.528 in AAA. At 26, he hit .352/.428/.698 in AAA. At 27, he hit .342/.429/.695 in yet another stint in AAA (God knows why).
So, although it's true that he struggled to make the leap to the majors through age 26, the dude was just crushing minor league pitching--and really the Rangers probably should have given him more of a chance to settle in, a couple years before he came up to stay.
Tyler Austin has done fairly well in the minors, but not quite as well as that, and last season at AAA he regressed to a .255/.311/.547 line between the NY/MIN affiliates. Maybe just a fluke, or maybe that's who he is. Steamer projects .240/.308/.447 for him next year, so 'low obp with some pop' is how he looks to the computer model.