Yankees may have themselves a new catcher

mlb: new york yankees at houston astros, austin wells
Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

While the New York Yankees emerged victorious over their rivals, the Houston Astros, the game’s talking point wasn’t so much about the win as it was about the performance of two highly touted prospects: Jasson Dominguez and Austin Wells. Dominguez blasted a two-run homer in his very first MLB at-bat, driving in Giancarlo Stanton. Wells, though, also left an impression. The 24-year-old catcher went 1-for-4, nailing a single to right field in his pro-debut at-bat.

Austin Wells: More Than Just a Bat

Wells seemed thrilled about his first MLB appearance, stating, “That was awesome,” Wells said. “I think it’s good to check the box in the first AB and then after that I was just out there having fun.” But it wasn’t solely his bat that drew attention. Wells also put on a commendable performance behind the plate, catching for Carlos Rodon in his MLB debut. Rodon went on to pitch five innings, surrendering three hits, two earned runs, and notching four strikeouts.

The Road to Redemption: Rodon and Wells Combine

For Rodon, who’s battling to turn his season around following multiple injuries, the game was a modest success. He currently has a 5.70 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. Having Wells catch a clean game while showcasing offensive prowess brought a sense of relief, particularly given that the Yankees have struggled to generate consistent quality from the catcher’s position.

A Glimpse Into Wells’ Minor League Credentials

Just like Dominguez, Wells is making his transition from Triple-A. He played 33 games with Scranton, boasting a .254 batting average and a .349 OBP. His stats also include a 23.3% strikeout rate, an 11% walk rate, five homers, 20 RBIs, and a 100 wRC+. The Yankees are buoyed by Wells’ offensive capabilities, and if he manages even league-average defense, his bat could significantly energize the lineup.

The Catcher Conundrum: Upcoming Decisions for the Yankees

As the off-season looms, the Yankees face several decisions regarding their catcher position, especially concerning Kyle Higashioka. Aged 33, Higashioka is currently batting .225 with a .265 OBP and has an 81 wRC+ this season. While he can be a serviceable hitter, he also has a 28.1% strikeout rate and a 5.5% walk rate.

Wells, on the other hand, has demonstrated commendable plate discipline in his minor league career, evident from his double-digit walk percentage, signaling that he knows how to get on base.

A Crucial Month Ahead: Data-Driven Future for Wells

The Yankees will be closely monitoring Wells over the next month, gathering ample data to help him refine his game while assessing his potential impact for the future. This period will be crucial in determining whether Wells can be a long-term asset for the team, especially in light of the upcoming decisions around the catcher position.

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