The New York Yankees find themselves with an abundance of talent in one particular area: the catcher position. This depth became particularly apparent in the late stages of the 2023 season when the team promoted Austin Wells, a 24-year-old prospect with a left-handed swing, to the major leagues.
Austin Wells: End-of-Season Surge
Despite initial struggles, Wells found his rhythm in the season’s final two weeks, delivering promising stats. Over 19 games, he achieved a .229 batting average, a .257 OBP, and a .486 slugging percentage, contributing four home runs, 13 RBIs, and a 97 wRC+. His performance indicated a notable improvement over what the Yankees had recently garnered from their catchers.
2024 Season Outlook: Wells and Treviño
Looking ahead, the Yankees anticipate that Wells, alongside seasoned player Jose Treviño, will emerge as their leading catchers. Treviño, expected to maintain his role as ace pitcher Gerrit Cole’s go-to catcher, had his season cut short by a wrist injury but is projected to return fully fit for 2024.
However, this consolidation puts Kyle Higashioka and Ben Rortvedt in a precarious position, potentially outside the active roster. Indeed, trade rumors have been swirling.
“The Yankees are signaling in talks with other clubs that at least two of the catchers on the 40-man roster are available in a trade, according to league sources,” Andy Martino of SNY said. “The Yankees’ expectation is to enter the season with Jose Trevino and Austin Wells as the catching tandem. That leaves Ben Rortvedt and Kyle Higashioka as potential victims of a roster crunch.
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Higashioka and Rortvedt: Uncertain Futures With the Yankees
Higashioka, 33, approaches his final arbitration year, after which he’ll hit free agency in 2025. He posted a .236 average and a .274 OBP in the last season, hitting 10 home runs and bringing in 34 RBIs over 92 games. While Higashioka remains a solid catcher, the Yankees’ preference for a younger roster may see him traded for fresh prospects.
Similarly, the 26-year-old Rortvedt, a left-handed hitter, may find himself on the move. Despite a modest .118 average and .241 OBP over 32 games, his defensive skills, and untapped potential make him a valuable asset, possibly attracting teams seeking depth rather than a starter.
Moving Forward: Youth and Experience
The Yankees seem poised to enter the new season with a mix of young prospects and established players. Treviño’s anticipated healthy return and Wells’ potential as a long-term asset highlight the team’s strategic planning. However, Wells acknowledges the need for defensive improvements.
Several pitchers have expressed positivity about working with Wells, citing his contribution to their in-game confidence and discipline. Committed to honing his skills, Wells will spend the off-season at the Yankees’ Tampa facilities, preparing diligently for the 2024 season.