Yankees promote top catching prospect to Triple-A

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After weeks of toiling in Triple-A due to a catching logjam, the Yankees had in Triple-A and the big leagues, a path opened up for the Yankees to promote #2 prospect Austin Wells. Recently added to MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospect list and part of Baseball America’s mid-season list as well, the left-handed slugger impressed many in Double-A and showed plenty of skills that could translate well into the higher levels of MiLB.

On the surface, a 107 wRC+ and .237 average are alarming, but a decrease in BABIP while increasing line drives and flyballs with fewer strikeouts would suggest Wells was running into some poor luck. Known for generating loft in his swing and working walks, Austin Wells is a bat-first prospect with plenty of tools that he looks to bring to Triple-A and beyond.

With the Yankees hoping for him to develop more behind the dish, this will give him the opportunity to get everyday reps at the catching position in a run-friendly environment. Wells was struggling to run into hits as a whole, but the pull-centric approach coupled with great swing decisions and a left-handed swing is something that the Yankees certainly love.

New York Yankees, Austin Wells
Feb 20, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees catcher Austin Wells (72) looks on at Yankees Player Development Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees’ first-round pick back in 2020 out of the University of Arizona, Wells has 48 HRs and 193 RBI since joining the organization with a 131 wRC+. He’s slowly improved his contact rates in-zone and has done an excellent job identifying when to swing and when not to swing, and if he can get his BABIP up from a career-low .260 this season, the OBP will be there alongside the slug.

One of the biggest strides the young catcher has taken over the past two seasons has come in his framing, with +4.1 Framing Runs thus far on the season. While he’s still struggling with the running game (-1.4 Throwing Runs) it’s interesting to see if the Yankees will test his skills at other positions. Could the Yankees give him reps in the OF knowing their offensive deficiencies out there? Furthermore, what if the Yankees need a new 1B?

The future of Anthony Rizzo in pinstripes has muddied with his recent slump, plummeting to a league-average hitter this season after blasting 32 HRs and posting a wRC+ over 130. The Yankees reportedly could look to move on from Rizzo if they choose to sell, and with Wells’ collegiate experience at the position and left-handed swing, it could be a positional change they make going forward.

With Austin Wells now in Triple-A, he’s just one step away from the Bronx. He’ll have to make some tweaks to get his average and on-base numbers back up, but he could factor into their plans late in the season or right out of camp in 2024. An unfortunate wrist tear for Jose Trevino has further created issues for the Yankees’ future at catcher, but Austin Wells could emerge as a potential fix to their problems.

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