The New York Yankees have a fine situation at the catcher position, and while we love Jose Treviño and his defensive prowess, the team may end up going in a different direction after the 2023 season.
When general manager Brian Cashman initially traded for Treviño from the Texas Rangers, nobody anticipated he would offer quality offense in addition to his elite defense behind home plate. While he only hit .248 with a .283 OBP, he’s mustered a career-high 11 homers with 43 RBIs and a 91 wRC+. He was a 3.7 WAR player, the best in his career by a significant margin.
His Steamer projections have him playing 83 games this upcoming season, hitting .245 with a .284 OBP, eight homers, and 34 RBIs with a 2.7 WAR. Ultimately, those are still quality numbers that represent a tremendous defensive asset but also liabilities in some offensive categories, notably getting on base.
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The Yankees don’t need an offensive catcher, but they have one climbing the farm:
Having an offensive catcher is certainly a luxury, but it isn’t necessarily a necessity. Many teams have gone in the direction of defense, but the Yankees have one exciting young prospect climbing the system that could offer both.
23-year-old catcher, Austin Wells, spent 55 games last year with AA Somerset in 2022, hitting 12 homers with 43 RBIs, a .261 average, and a .360 OBP. He was tremendous, and his lefty bat projects to translate perfectly in Yankee Stadium.
There was a time that Wells may have had to change positions due to his defense, but he took a significant step in the right direction last season. Specifically, he enjoyed a 25% caught-stealing rate, up from 13% in 2021. In addition, after allowing 16 passed balls in 2021, he allowed just four last year, including 9.4 framing runs above average. That type of improvement doesn’t go unnoticed, and Wells has his sights set on an All-Star appearance in the future. Not only does he love the grind of being a catcher on a daily basis, but he fits the mold of a Yankee perfectly. Disciplined, talented, and eager to prove his worth.
Many have doubted Wells’s capabilities in the past, but he has absorbed every ounce of that suspicion and turned it into production. The Yankees do have Treviño under contract until 2026, so they have his services locked down for quite some time. They may end up platooning Treviño and Wells later on this season since the Yankees currently have Kyle Higashioka and Ben Rortvedt waiting in the wings — neither are considered everyday starters.
Wells profiles far better than both, and despite him playing in AA last year, he should reach Scranton rather soon, especially if he performs well during spring training as one of the team’s non-roster invites.
Everything is pointing in the direction of Austin becoming a prominent piece for the Bombers in the near future. While that means Treviño takes a backseat as the game becomes more offensive, Wells should step right in and contribute on several fronts.