Yankees are holding back promising lefty catcher prospect

Syndication: Poughkeepsie Journal, yankees, austin wells
Patrick Oehler/Poughkeepsie Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

The New York Yankees have taken a series of puzzling steps in recent weeks, with one of the more intriguing developments being their handling of left-handed catcher Austin Wells, who appears ready to progress further in his career.

Austin Wells: A Prolonged Double-A Journey

Wells has seen an extraordinary amount of action with Somerset in Double-A, playing 55 games last season and another 39 this year, despite boasting a wRC+ above 120 in both seasons.

In 2022, Wells achieved a .261 batting average and a .360 OBP, inclusive of 12 home runs and 43 RBIs, along with a 129 WRC+. A setback due to an injury during spring training prompted the Yankees to keep him at Double-A for further development.

This season, as anticipated, Wells maintains his impressive performance in Somerset, with a .247 average, a .235 OBP, 10 home runs, 35 RBIs, a 13% walk rate, and a 124 wRC+.

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Defensive Capabilities: The Heart of Concern

The primary issues lie with his defensive capabilities. The Yankees are undecided whether Wells fits the long-term catching role or whether he should shift to the outfield, first base, or serve as a DH. Regardless, Wells remains dedicated to improving as a catcher, earning praise from Luis Severino during his rehab assignment.

Luis Severino commended Wells, saying, “I really like him. 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.”

Recent Performance: Rising Star

Wells has been performing exceptionally in recent games, amassing 16 hits, three home runs, and 15 RBIs in the last 18 games in June. He is currently enjoying a three-game hitting streak, with four hits during this period, including a crucial three-run homer in the 6th inning that secured Somerset a playoff spot last Friday.

The Path Forward: Promotion to Triple-A?

The Bombers need to consider moving Wells up to Triple-A, where he can further hone his skills against superior talent and prepare for the MLB. Given the current shortcomings of the Yankees’ catchers’ offensive output, Wells’s batting skills could prove valuable in the future. Fast-tracking him to a higher level could potentially speed up his journey to the MLB.

While the Yankees might not foresee Wells as a future catcher, Wells is fervently committed to the role. He is making concerted efforts to instill confidence in the organization in his ability to thrive in this position.

In Wells’s words, “I hold my most value as a player, all around, as a catcher. I think I bring the most to the table being able to hit as a catcher rather than as an outfielder or first baseman.”

Gaining From Mentorship: Ben Rortvedt’s Role

An opportunity to collaborate with a defense-oriented catcher like Ben Rortvedt could be beneficial. However, the Yankees cannot provide him with everyday opportunities in Triple-A, despite his seemingly more promising outlook compared to the consistently injured Rortvedt.