Yankees’ rookie catcher facing uphill battle

MLB: New York Yankees at Arizona Diamondbacks
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees are patiently waiting for rookie catcher Austin Wells to hit his stride offensively, but it has certainly been a tough start to the 2024 season. The 24-year-old played 19 games in 2023 with the Yankees out of playoff contention and looking to develop some of their youngsters, preparing for the future.

Wells earned essential opportunities and experience, but so far, he’s struggled to provide his offensive upside, hitting 103/.243/.103 over 11 games and 37 plate appearances. He has an identical strikeout and walk rate at 16.2%, recording two RBIs and four runs with a 17 wRC+.

Considering his four homers and 10 RBIs over the final two weeks of the 2023 season, the Yankees hoped that Wells would be a bit more productive early on, but his numbers have been well below that of Jose Treviño, which is surprising.

Trevino is hitting .200/.310/.320, smashing a homer with two RBIs and a 92 wRC+. He’s essentially running back his 2022 season, where he was the best defensive catcher in the game but also maintained solid enough offensive production.

The Yankees Need More From Austin Wells, But He’s Been Unlucky

The Yankees are banking on Wells a step in the batter’s box, but so far, he’s come up a bit short. His hard-hit percentage dropped 2%, nearly a 10% reduction compared to last year, but he is barreling at 16%, which is a substantial number. His 25.5° angle suggests he’s trying to loft at the ball, but an 86 average exit velocity hasn’t done him any favors.

Simply put, Wells is struggling against offspeed and breaking pitches, hitting .125 against the former and .000 against the latter. Even his fastball efficiency has dropped, hitting .182 across 69 pitches.

This could be simply bad luck for Wells, who ranks in the 92nd percentile in barrel percentage and 89th percentile in sweet spot percentage. All of his numbers look relatively decent, so with the underlying metrics supporting upside, the Yankees simply need to keep giving him opportunities until his contact turns into production.

A Young Catcher Claiming the Ranks

However, the Bombers are also keeping close tabs on Agustin Ramirez, one of their young 22-year-old catching prospects tearing up Double-A this year. Ramirez has played eight games with Somerset, hitting .281/.395/.844, including six homers, 13 RBIs, and a 215 wRC+.

Ramirez will get promoted to Triple-A at some point this season, and if Wells doesn’t sniff his potential, there’s a reality where Ramirez gets an opportunity as the primary starter for the Yankees down the line, given his phenomenal power and good defensive traits.

Mentioned in this article:

More about: