Yankees eyeing big impact from newly promoted catcher

MLB: Spring Training-Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees
Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of the 2023 season, the New York Yankees promoted several prospects to showcase their skill set at the major league level. 24-year-old Austin Wells was among those players.

Over a small 19-game sample, Wells hit .229/.257/.486, smashing four homers with 13 RBIs. The final two weeks of the season saw him begin to adjust offensively, but he made a positive impression behind the dish.

In fact, manager Aaron Boone has been impressed by Wells’s defensive value and comfortability as a catcher. There were red flags at the minor league level regarding his arm and framing, but he’s been nothing but stout since being promoted.

“He’s caught way better than he’s swung the bat to this point,” manager Aaron Boone said on Friday. “I’ve been so impressed with how good of a catcher I think he’s becoming. Can he catch? There’s no doubt in my mind he can, and not only that, I think he’s good.”

Wells has always been known for his consistent offensive contributions throughout the minor-league system. Many question whether he could maintain his averages at the MLB level, but he’s already starting to acclimate during spring training, and the Yankees are excited about his role as the team’s secondary catcher alongside Jose Trevino.

At this point, Wells may have an opportunity to steal the starting job in the long term, especially if he continues to improve.

Wells is Working With the Yankees’ Top Arms

Getting additional work in over the past few weeks with Trevino dealing with a calf strain has certainly benefited Wells. The relationships and chemistry building alongside some of the team’s primary pitchers will only promote more playing time for the rookie.

“I think getting to work with a lot of the starters so far and a lot of our relievers is just kind of what I wanted to do,” Wells said. “The more that I’m catching them, the better the relationship and the better feel that we have for each other, the trust to throw the pitch when needed.

This spring, Wells has played in eight games and is hitting .263/.333/.632. He smashed his second homer of the spring on Saturday afternoon against the Minnesota Twins, a 400-foot bomb in the first inning.

Fortunately, Boone is already considering Wells a primary piece of their equation, with the assumption that he will play at least two out of every five games.

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“If he’s on the team, he’s going to play a lot,” Boone said. “I don’t know if that’s two out of five, three out of five, however you want to make it. We’ll see. Whoever shares the position initially and over time with Trevi, they’re going to split it anyway.”

The Yankees will likely platoon the two catchers, since Trevino is far better offensively against left-handed pitching, so if there’s a lefty starter on the mound, the Yankees will likely ride with the veteran. However, Wells is solid against right-handed pitching, suggesting he will get more opportunities in games that feature righties.

Of course, Trevino will remain Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher, so Wells will have to earn the right by proving is worth throughout the upcoming campaign.

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