Yankees’ catcher prospect could steal roster spot in 2024

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

The New York Yankees are posed with a tantalizing puzzle as they approach the 2024 off-season. With a roster brimming with options, the question remains: who deserves the spotlight behind the plate, prioritizing defense or offense? Jose Treviño’s promising recovery from a season-ending right wrist tear hints at a return to his exemplary defensive prowess. This, after a stellar All-Star performance in 2022.

While Treviño’s future looks good, the Yankees’ eyes are also set on Austin Wells, a young prospect who’s been showing some promise since his recent promotion.

The Yankees’ Catcher Trio: Higashioka, Rortvedt, and Wells

The discourse around the Yankees’ catcher selection revolves around Kyle Higashioka, Ben Rortvedt, and Austin Wells. Higashioka, a familiar name to Yankees enthusiasts, is edging toward the end of his arbitration phase. At 33, there’s a growing sentiment to infuse younger, cost-effective talent into the lineup.

Higashioka, a right-handed batter, recorded an 84 wRC+ this season, boasting 10 home runs, a .232 batting average, and a .272 OBP. Although this marks his third consecutive season with double-digit homers, Wells’ batting prowess, especially in the Yankee Stadium setting, presents an enticing alternative.

Meanwhile, the lefty-hitting Rortvedt has become a favorite for ace Gerrit Cole. Despite a less-than-impressive .109 average and .240 OBP over 31 games, he has shown potential in the Triple-A circuit, hitting .286 with a .395 OBP across 29 games.

Wells, on the other hand, faces challenges in the batting department, recording a .160 average, .204 OBP, and a 33 wRC+ over 14 games. Still, with such a brief major league stint, it’s premature to cast judgments. Aged 24 and in the pre-arbitration phase, Wells’ potential might be a gamble the Yankees are willing to take, both offensively and defensively. High praises from Treviño and appreciation from the Yankees’ pitching squad further enhance Wells’ prospects.

“He’s been doing really good,” said Trevino of Wells. “Obviously he’s young, he’s still got some learning to do. But I think he’s been doing an awesome job.”

Wells: A Rising Star?

There’s a myriad of reasons to be optimistic about Wells. Notably, his discerning eye at the plate, consistent double-digit walk rates during his minor-league tenure, and a non-alarming strikeout rate.

While he’s faced defensive challenges in the minors, his recent performances suggest a more refined approach. The narrative for spring training 2024 could very well see Wells securing his place, provided he edges out competition from Higashioka and Rortvedt. But, there’s always the possibility of trade deals, especially given the Yankees’ depth in the catcher position.

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