Yankees’ rookie catcher may be able to steal starting job

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

In just a week, the narrative surrounding the New York Yankees‘ 24-year-old catcher prospect, Austin Wells, has seen a remarkable shift. Initially seen as an uncertainty for the roster spot, Wells has now become a topic of interest due to his budding potential as an offensive weapon, gaining commendations from fellow team pitchers.

Though his current batting average stands at .190 with a .226 OBP across 16 games, his other numbers tell a different tale. His 20.6% strikeout rate, particularly for a power catcher, is commendably low. His history of double-digit walk rates in minor league seasons hints at a promising capacity to replicate this feat in the MLB.

Manager Aaron Boone’s confidence in Wells is evident. Highlighting a recent game, Wells’ two-run homer to the left field was a notable 367-foot opposite-field shot that clinched a 2-0 win for the Yankees against the Toronto Blue Jays.

“Wells, I feel like, has gotten better and better as we’ve gone,” Aaron Boone said Monday, via The Athletic. “And today you see why you get excited about him as a hitter.”

With three homers to his name this season and an impressive last seven days, including a batting average of .316 and an OPS of 1.192 over 19 at-bats, the Yankees foresee him rejuvenating the catcher position that has underperformed offensively in recent years.

“He’s been swinging really well finally this last week,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He’s started to get more and more comfortable. You’ve seen from jump, (he looked) hitter-ish in the box. He’s got that. Now he’s starting to get some results, really starting to drive the ball.”

More Than Just a Bat: Wells’ Defensive Prowess

Beyond his batting prowess, Wells is making a mark with his defensive skills behind the plate. This is a significant turnaround for someone who had previously faced criticism regarding his defensive attributes, from questions about his arm strength to framing concerns. However, his recent displays have started to change that perception.

“To me,” Michael King said, “when I’m out there and grinding, I get away from the scouting report and I start throwing pitches that don’t really make sense. He went straight to the scouting report. I thought that was really impressive.”

Wells’ consistency stems from his rigorous preparation and adherence to strategy. While some players might deviate from the game plan, Wells manifests discipline in understanding his role and executing it impeccably on the field.

The Yankees’ Catcher Conundrum: Wells vs. Treviño

Given Wells’ rising stature, speculations are rife that he might overshadow José Treviño, possibly even taking over his position. Possessing a competent lefty hitter who is also defensively sound at the catcher position is undoubtedly an asset.

However, a potential scenario might see Treviño retain his designated role as Gerrit Cole’s exclusive catcher and act as the primary backup to Wells. This arrangement would undoubtedly be an ideal situation for the Yankees, especially considering they haven’t had an offensive threat in this position since Gary Sanchez’s early days.

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