Yankees’ rookie catcher could emerge as a catalyst in 2024

mlb: new york yankees at toronto blue jays, austin wells
Sep 26, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Yankees catcher Austin Wells (88) gets ready for the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees‘ 2024 season will feature several new players, but their impact is expected to be significant. Aside from Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo’s reinforcement in the outfield, the Yankees will be leaning on rookie Austin Wells to help support the catcher position alongside Jose Trevino.

Trevino was diagnosed with a calf strain several weeks ago and will miss a good chunk of spring training, allowing Wells to get additional work alongside some other catchers vying for a roster spot. However, Wells should be able to get substantial reps with Gerrit Cole and the team’s top pitchers over the next few weeks, with Trevino rehabilitating from his injury.

“We have a ton of great catchers here,” Wells said. “So, for me, it definitely pushes me to work harder and compete.”

Yankees Building Confidence in Wells

One of the primary red flags is his defense, but he quieted those concerns over a small sample size at the end of the 2023 season. The prospect drew glowing reviews from several pitchers and continues to impress with his leadership and ability to acclimate to the different players on the mound.

“Reputation precedes the truth,” catching coordinator Tanner Swanson said. “But I’ve had confidence because he was putting up good numbers defensively [in the minors] every step of the way. So I had no reason to believe it wouldn’t play at this level. So his short stint with us late last year might have opened up a lot of external eyes, but internally we’ve had confidence that he would do exactly what he did and more.”

Offensive Potential

Offensively, he hit only .229/.257/486 across 19 MLB games, which included four homers and 13 RBIs. However, his final two weeks of the regular season were impressive, hitting .289 with a .667 slugging rate, including all four of his home runs and 10 RBIs with a 13% strikeout rate and 161 wRC+.

There’s no question that Wells has the capacity to be a top catcher in the MLB, he just needs more experience and trust from the coaching staff.

The Road Ahead

Ideally, Wells would take over as the team’s long-term catcher, especially since he has accumulated next to no service time and has three minor-league options remaining.

The Yankees don’t intend on sending him back down to Triple-A, but he’s an extremely cheap player as a rookie, and with Trevino still maintaining his starting moniker, Wells doesn’t have much pressure to produce now.

However, he’s coming from a crop of prospects that won championships in the minor league system and has intangible traits that should translate to the highest level. As a leader and intelligent player, Wells has a bright future, and the Yankees need to instill their confidence in him this upcoming season.

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