Yankees have a stud catcher prospect quickly climbing the ranks

Austin Wells, New York Yankees
Feb 21, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees catcher Austin Wells (62) at Yankees player development complex. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees failed to get the most out of catcher Gary Sanchez before trading him to the Minnesota Twins this past off-season. Sanchez had a few stand-out campaigns, but after 2019, he failed to hit more than 23 home runs in a given season, averaging below a 30% on base rate.

With Minnesota this year, Sanchez is struggling similarly in the batter’s box, hitting .218 with a 27.5% on-base rate. Whatever happened with Sanchez is in the past, though, and the Yankees are keen on developing one of their young prospects into a more consistent player down the road.

The Yankees have a stud climbing through the system:

In fact, the 28th overall pick out of Arizona in 2020, Austin Wells, has now been elevated to Double-A, Somerset. This season, Wells has spent time in A and High-A ball. With Hudson Valley, he batted .323 with a 43% on-base rate, .576 slugging percentage, six homers, and 16 RBIs over 28 games. He recorded a 22.3% strikeout rate and an impressive 15.7% walk rate.

What makes Wells so incredible is his athleticism, stealing nine bases as a catcher.

MLB Pipeline grades Wells generously, noting his offensive qualities:

The Yankees have an affinity in general for offensive-minded catchers and in particular for Wells, whom they drafted in the 35th round from a Las Vegas high school in 2018 and 28th overall in the first round out of Arizona two years later. He won the Pacific-12 Conference freshman of the year and Cape Cod League top prospect awards in 2019, his lone full college season, before signing for $2.5 million as a sophomore-eligible. He posted an .867 OPS with 16 homers and as many steals while advancing to High-A in his pro debut, then continued to rake in the Arizona Fall League.

At 22 years old, the left-handed hitter is quickly climbing the ranks, making two years a suitable timetable to reach the big leagues. If he continues to rake with Somerset, I wouldn’t be surprised if Wells gets the call to Triple-A, Scranton next season. One year with Scranton, and he could be ready to make his debut with the Yankees.

Considering Wells has only spent 1.5 years in the Yankees’ minor-league system, his elevation is quite impressive. Defensively, he’s been great behind the plate, allowing just one passed ball and catching 17 runners attempting to steal.

If he continues to develop at this pace, Wells will be firmly in the equation as a potential long-term solution at catcher. Considering how difficult it is to find quality offensive catchers these days, his growth is a priority. For now, the Bombers continue to roll with Kyle Higashioka and José Treviño. The latter of the two has been a major surprise this season.