Finding a catcher with above-average offense is an extremely difficult task in today’s MLB. The Yankees have tried their hand at that goal but fell short with Gary Sanchez, who was wildly inconsistent both offensively and defensively in the past.
However, they have a chance to discover something special with one of their young prospects, Austin Wells. At 24 years old, Wells reached the MLB last season and enjoyed 19 games, displaying tremendous upside despite several red flags.
The Yankees are Looking for a High Upside Bat
Wells has generally been an average hitter in the Yankees’ minor league system, suggesting that he would fall short of average in the majors, but he showcased not only his ability to make good contact but to pummel baseballs over the outfield walls, hitting four homers with 10 RBIs over his last two weeks of the season.
While he finished hitting .229/.257/.486, his numbers saw a significant increase over the final two weeks. Hitting .289/.304/.667 with a 161 wRC+. Over those 46 plate appearances, he was 61% better than the average hitter and hosted a 13% strikeout rate. This is no ordinary catcher, this is a player who has the ability to offer the Yankees substantial offensive upside from a position they had sacrificed in the past for quality defense.
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Over the past two years, Jose Treviño has locked down the position, but the Yankees may be able to get solid defense and high-upside offense with Wells, who is expected to head back down to Tampa and start his spring training program a bit early.
Some of the red flags people were concerned about were his defense, notably passed balls and arm strength. Fortunately, he threw out the first batter that attempted to steal on him, and his framing looked adequate. A number of Yankee pitchers have spoken about his quality in the past, specifically Luis Severino and Michael King, neither of whom are actually with the team anymore.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Yankees utilize Wells and Treviño in a platoon. Treviño would take on lefty pitching and feature as Gerrit Cole‘s personal catcher. This is a fine strategy as they work Wells into the system as a rookie. He finished last season catching 535 pitches, hosting a 47.5% strike rate.
Treviño ranked in the top five with a 49.9% strike rate, with Wells landing in the average category. However, if that is his floor, the Yankees will be extremely excited about what he can accomplish as he makes the transition to the highest level of baseball.