When the Yankees drafted Austin Wells, there was plenty of discussion of whether he had the ability to remain at catcher and if his advanced bat would prove too valuable to waste time putting in the work behind the plate.
Three seasons later, Wells’ bat hasn’t slowed, his defense has only gotten better and a pinstripes debut may not be out of the question for 2023.
“Over the course of time,” catching coordinator Aaron Gershenfeld said, “he’s gotten better. I still think there’s a lot he can get better at, but I’m also very, very confident he’ll continue to progress.
“Just really proud of the progress he’s made.”
In 2020, the Yankees picked Wells 28th overall out of Arizona and signed him for $2.5 million.
While it’s unclear whether Wells will begin the season at Double-A Somerset or at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, it’s obvious that the Yankees have been impressed with the 23-year-old’s work ethic.
“He’s certainly turned himself into—objectively—a really, really good catcher, and I still have quite a bit of optimism that the best is yet to come for Austin,” Gershenfeld said.
There’s been little doubt he can hit. His .897 OPS last year was the highest among everyday catchers in the organization. In 92 games through Low-A Tampa, High-A Hudson Valley and Somerset, he hit .277/.385/.512 with 20 home runs and 65 RBIs.
A groin injury caused by a foul tip held him out a month in the middle of the season.
Defensively, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Wells has made “significant improvements” in his throwing and blocking,” Gershenfeld said, though stopping sharp breaking balls and pitches in the dirt to his right remain areas of work for Wells.
Gershenfeld said that Wells rated out as one of the best receivers in the minor leagues in 2021 and “well above-average” at Hudson Valley. Gershenfeld credited defensive coach Aaron Bossi for being a big influence on Wells’ improvement.
“All of it is going to continue to improve as his development moves in that direction,” Gershenfeld said.