The Yankees could have a new first baseman in the fold

New York Yankees, Austin Wells

The New York Yankees have outlined a strategy for the rest of the 2023 season, emphasizing their up-and-coming youth prospects. Following the recent promotions of Everson Pereira and Oswald Peraza, there’s increasing buzz around lefty slugging catcher Austin Wells. Manager Aaron Boone has already marked Wells as “someone that’s definitely on the radar” for a September call-up.

The Clock is Ticking: Wells at a Crossroads

While Wells boasts immense potential, time is ticking for the 24-year-old to break into the MLB. Having honed his skills at the Double-A level for a considerable time, he was recently bumped up to Triple-A Scranton to accelerate his development further.

Wells’ Batting Stats: A Mixed Bag with Promise

In his Double-A stint this year, Wells has posted a .237 batting average and a .327 OBP, notching 11 home runs and 50 RBIs over 58 games. Though these numbers may not be eye-popping, his good power and solid plate discipline underline a player who makes decent contact but has seen some unlucky breaks.

Meanwhile, in 31 Triple-A games, Wells has showcased a promising .263 batting average with a .353 OBP, clocking five home runs, 20 RBIs, a 23.5% strikeout rate, and a 10.3% walk rate. His wRC+ stands at 104, and he’s been red-hot over his past five games, accumulating six hits that include a home run and two RBIs.

Defensive Skills: A Potential Roadblock for Wells

However, concerns have surfaced regarding Wells’ defensive capabilities as a catcher. He might fit better as a first baseman, especially if veteran Anthony Rizzo struggles to return due to lingering concussion symptoms.

The Catching Coach’s Take: Wells’ Growth in Defense

Tanner Swanson, the Yankees’ catching coach, remains optimistic about Wells’ ability to handle the catching duties.

“It’s been a continued growth,” Swanson said. “He’s only gotten better since he joined our system. He’s made a lot of really positive gains on the receiving front. The blocking has come a long way and the arm has improved. That was probably the biggest concern, probably, when we acquired him. The arm strength. He’s kind of met every program that we’ve put in front of him and has seen gains and he’s been really committed to just our process. It’s a testament to him, but it’s a testament to our player development group, too.”

Rizzo’s Waning Form: An Opportunity for Wells?

At 34, Anthony Rizzo hasn’t had the best season, particularly after suffering a head injury against the San Diego Padres. As of now, his numbers sit at a .244 batting average and a .328 OBP, along with 12 homers and 41 RBIs. His 100 wRC+ is his lowest since his 2011 rookie season.

Planning Ahead: Could Wells Be the Yankees’ Next First Baseman?

While Wells hasn’t yet played first base at the minor league level, catchers often make the transition if they struggle defensively. As Rizzo nears the final year of his two-year deal in 2024, the Yankees need to think about long-term options. Wells could very well fit that bill.

A September Showcase: An Audition for Wells?

The ideal scenario for the Yankees would be to integrate Wells’ lefty bat into their MLB lineup come September. This would provide him with much-needed exposure to MLB pitching and a platform to demonstrate his strengths.

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