Yankees’ rising catcher could change everything for the offense

mlb: toronto blue jays at new york yankees, austin wells
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees faced significant challenges in their offensive performance during the 2023 season. Despite having a high payroll exceeding $270 million, the team struggled in key offensive areas, particularly in the latter half of the batting order.

Catching Position and Offensive Potential

One notable aspect of the Yankees’ strategy has been their focus on defensive skills at the catcher position, especially after moving on from Gary Sanchez to Jose Trevino. While Trevino is acclaimed for his defensive prowess, his offensive output has been less impactful. However, the emergence of catcher Austin Wells could potentially change the narrative for the Yankees in 2024.

At 24 years old, Wells is poised to join the major league roster after showing promise in the minor leagues. In 2023, he progressed through every level of minor-league baseball, demonstrating steady improvement.

Despite a challenging start in the MLB with a 19-game stint, Wells showed significant potential in the last two weeks of the season. He finished with a .229/.257/.486 batting line, but in the final 14 days, he achieved a .289 average with a .667 slugging rate, including four home runs and 10 RBIs. This performance indicated that he was 61% better than the average hitter during that period.

Wells has consistently maintained a double-digit walk rate throughout his minor league career. He began to adapt to how pitchers were targeting him, leading to more disciplined at-bats. His ability to be patient and find favorable pitches could be a significant asset for the Yankees.

“Once I was able to figure that out — at least a little bit — I was able to click and be a little more patient, and I got a lot more pitches to hit,” Wells said via telephone. “[The Yankees] gave me the confidence to go out there in that last month and … be successful. Having the information that we get from the hitting department, [the team] showed me the numbers and made me tighten up my zone — get my pitch that I’m looking to hit.”

Impact on the Yankees’ 2024 Season

If Wells can bring even average offensive production to the catcher position, it could immensely benefit the Yankees’ lineup. While Trevino is known more for his defense than his offense, Wells has also received praise for his defensive skills from pitchers. His 18.7% strikeout rate in the MLB showcases his strong eye and potential for further improvement.

Wells is already in Tampa, starting his off-season program ahead of the official report date for pitchers and catchers. His early preparation, along with other Yankee players focusing on improvement and opportunities, signals a proactive approach toward the 2024 season.

The Yankees, recognizing the potential in Wells’ left-handed bat, are hopeful that his development will contribute significantly to their offensive capabilities in the upcoming season.

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