The New York Yankees are expected to field a much different team in 2024 compared to their roster last season. They turned over the outfield and are projected to elevate several young players into starting-level roles. However, the quest to find more starting pitching is still underway. While general manager Brian Cashman could look to free agency or the trade market, he will have to expend resources one way or another.
While the team was certainly focused on plugging weaknesses this off-season, one position that represents a strength is catcher. The Yankees sent veteran Kyle Higashioka to the San Diego Padres in the Juan Soto deal. Still, they are left over with a number of quality options, and the position is expected to look a little bit different next season.
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The Yankees Are Transition to Austin Wells
After rotating Ben Rortvedt, Higashioka, and Jose Treviño (before the injury) in 2023, the expectation is that rookie Austin Wells will take over as a primary option at backstop. The 24-year-old has been working diligently this off-season to improve his game and prepare for an expanded role.
Wells has been a consistently solid minor-league player throughout his career, but he showcased plenty of potential over 19 games with the Yankees last season to close 2023. He started his campaign in Double-A with Somerset, hitting .237/.327/.443. After transitioning to Triple-A, he hit .254/.349/.452, enjoying five homers and 20 RBIs over 33 games. Wells has consistently posted a walk rate at or above 11% during his minor-league career, suggesting he’s a patient hitter who should provide the Yankees with a quality bat in the bottom half of the order.
Across his 19-game sample size, Wells hit .229/.257/.486, including four homers, 13 RBIs, and a 97 wRC+. However, over the final two weeks of the season, his number saw a drastic increase, hitting .289 with a .304 OBP, including all four homers and 10 RBIs. The upside the Yankees saw suggests he could be a long-term starter at a key position. Of course, that doesn’t eliminate the value Treviño brings to the table.
The 31-year-old defensive maestro should support Wells significantly. The expectation is that Treviño will remain Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher, but Wells has developed his defensive side, earning some glowing reviews from several pitchers. Former Yankee Luis Severino had inspiring words for Austin’s defense, as well as Michael King, who has since been moved to the Padres.
This dynamic duo has platoon potential as well. Treviño hit significantly better against left-handed pitchers compared to righties last year. He hit .268/.318/.463, suggesting the Bombers could operate from an advantageous stance to improve their offensive capabilities. Given Wells is a lefty bat, it makes sense that Treviño would face off against pitchers on the same side.
The Yankees have a significant number of prospects also climbing the system, notably Ben Rice, Carlos Narvaez, and Agustin Ramirez. They could potentially look to leverage some of them in the future, given Wells pans out.