The New York Yankees will inevitably have to enhance their catcher position in the future. Although Jose Treviño continues to be an exceptional defensive catcher, his offensive shortcomings have become noticeable at the bottom of the lineup.
A great many teams have traded offensive capabilities for superior defense from their catchers, but a balance of both is undoubtedly an attractive prospect.
Fortunately for the Yankees, they are nurturing a promising left-handed slugger to eventually assume the catcher role. The common consensus is that 23-year-old Austin Wells may eventually play in a corner outfield spot or at first base. However, he remains steadfast in his ambition to be an accomplished catcher at the MLB level.
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The Yankees have something special in Austin Wells:
As a pure offensive player, Wells possesses boundless potential, currently hitting .269 with a .368 OBP with Double-A Somerset. He has secured eight home runs with 28 RBIs and maintains a 144 wRC+ over a span of just 27 games. If the Yankees are in search of a potent left-handed hitter, Wells is undoubtedly their prime choice.
“Austin’s ceiling is high,” Somerset hitting coach Jake Hirst said. “He’s a very natural hitter. He’s a special hitter. When he’s going his best, he has the ability to drive the ball the other way.”
The real question is: can Wells sufficiently elevate his skills behind the plate to convince the Yankees that he’s a sustainable catcher solution?
His receiving skills and his arm have faced scrutiny, but many catchers are having difficulty throwing runners out this year due to narrower base paths and larger bases at the major-league level.
Wells received a glowing appraisal from Luis Severino, who had pitched to him during his rehab stint several weeks ago.
“I really like him,” Severino said of Wells. “He has a good bat and he’s really good behind the plate. He blocked some balls. He called some good pitches. I think he’s really good.”
Wells has the determination and work ethic to become a quality catcher. He saw a significant improvement in overall efficiency last season by reducing his passed balls and significantly increasing his caught-stealing rate. This progress secured him additional time.
At the very least, the Yankees are aware they have a player who can smoothly transition to another position, given his athletic profile. As a catcher, he possesses speed and strength—a unique combination.
A compelling argument can be made that Wells should soon be promoted to Triple-A Scranton. However, the Yankees currently have Ben Rortvedt playing there, ensuring he gets consistent reps in case his services are needed due to injury.
The Yankees simply prefer Wells to have regular playing time rather than acting as a backup. That doesn’t negate his inclusion in the team’s long-term plans. He undoubtedly has the ability to become an outstanding big-league catcher and a formidable left-handed hitter.