The New York Yankees have several prospects who could break out during spring training next month. Notably, the top prospects are Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe. However, there is one underrated player that could make an impact on the 2023 season if he continues to grow at a consistent pace.
Having an offensive catcher in baseball is a luxury and not a necessity. The Yankees are committed to Jose Treviño, who is arguably the best defensive catcher in the entire game, but his offensive contributions are moot.
The Yankees have been developing a prospect in the minor-league system over the past two years with solid upside as a defender but an incredible bat from the left side of the plate.
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The New York Yankees are very excited about Austin Wells:
Austin Wells, 23, has spent the last two seasons in the Yankees’ farm system. He started in A-ball last year, playing in nine games before being elevated to A+ and then AA in Somerset. He played 55 games in Somerset, hitting .261 with a .360 OBP, 12 homers, and 43 RBIs with a 129 wRC+.
Wells justified being elevated to AAA Scranton this year, which is extremely exciting considering his offensive contributions from the catcher position. There were concerns regarding his defensive qualities, notably his arm strength and accuracy. Nonetheless, he’s begun to improve in most categories once perceived as a liability. Framing was never a strong suit, but he’s taken a big step in the right direction.
His caught-stealing percentage nearly doubled from 12.5% in 2021 to 24.6% this past season. He also cut his passed balls from 24 to 6, which is a significant improvement. With those types of developments, Wells is on his way to becoming a catcher at the Major League level instead of transitioning to another position.
Aside from his tangible traits, Wells is also a leader and has a lot of pride in what he does on the baseball diamond:
“Yeah, that’s important. I definitely carry myself with a lot of pride in what I do. There’s no doubt about that. And even more important than being like a great player is being a good person and good teammate. I’m always trying to be the best leader and best teammate I can be with all the guys, so I definitely pride myself on that with my game. On the catching side, it’s my job, so it’s something that I take care of with the highest intensity, the highest focus and highest pride. If you don’t, I think you’re shortchanging yourself. For me, it’s very, very prideful to be able to improve every day and silence some people that maybe didn’t believe in me.”Wells told Randy Miller of NJ.com in an exclusive intervview.
It isn’t easy to find catchers as athletic as Wells, who stole seven bases last year and has the potential for much more. With a short right porch in Yankee Stadium, Wells could easily be a home run factor and provide a luxury at the catcher position, which is something the Yankees haven’t had since the best version of Gary Sanchez.
Wells has a prime opportunity to impress during spring training, but he still likely needs another year at the minor league level before making the transition full-time to the majors. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a crack down the road in 2023, especially since the current backups include Kyle Higashioka and Ben Rortvedt.
Higashioka is a decent player with average defense and can occasionally slug a few homers, but his future with the team is certainly in question as Wells continues to thrive in the minor-league system.