Austin Wells could provide the Yankees with offense at catcher again

Austin Wells can hit.

There is little level in the paragraphs to observe if we do not set up that first. If Wells have been much less of a hitter, the Yankees wouldn’t have taken him in the first spherical of the 2020 MLB Draft. He hit in faculty, he hit on the Cape, he hit in the Arizona Fall League, and he has hit in each of his full seasons in the minors. We are speaking about Wells at all as a result of he can hit. But the purpose we’re speaking about him as one among the prime prospects in the Yankees’ group — and somebody who can change into an impression participant in the large leagues — is that it now seems like he can catch.

Information has a manner of changing into standard knowledge in the on-line scouting world. Someone posts an opinion a couple of participant and other people begin accepting it as reality because it spreads from platform to platform. In Wells’ case, it isn’t like the opinions of his protection have been popping out of nowhere. Prior to the 2020 draft, Baseball America revealed that the majority of scouts who had weighed in on Wells didn’t suppose he could catch as an expert.

The Yankees disagree. This is a brand new period of participant growth, and the Yankees overhauled their catching instruction previous to the 2020 season. Tanner Swanson introduced the one-knee catching model to the MLB employees, however he additionally grew to become a heavy affect on the teaching of catching prospects, who have been being coordinated by the newly-hired Aaron Gershenfeld. The Yankees felt Wells was a robust receiver, and after scouting him for years, they’d a way of his work ethic and aptitude. Wells has the distinction of being drafted by the Yankees twice, as soon as out of a Las Vegas highschool in the thirty fifth spherical of 2018, after which again out of the University of Arizona in 2020. It could be argued that the Yankees knew Wells higher than anybody

A yr into Wells’ profession, the skepticism about his protection hadn’t waned. MLB Pipeline reported that scouts outdoors the Yankee group felt that Wells was a shaky receiver who would find yourself in left discipline or at first base. Baseball America famous that Wells was thought-about a below-average defender who had hassle blocking pitches, lacked mobility behind the plate, and had a historical past of elbow troubles that made his throwing arm “fringy at greatest.” Depending on the evening, you could watch Wells catch and the eye take a look at would corroborate these opinions. Pessimists, like Keith Law of The Athletic, went so far as to say the Yankees have been losing their time with Wells at catcher and will transfer him out of there instantly.

Publicly, the Yankees’ assist of their gamers didn’t waver. Coaches and employees members praised his work ethic, emphasised his developments, and expressed religion that his enchancment would proceed. Entering the 2022 season, optimistic takes on Wells’ future as a catcher hinged on the potential adoption of the automated strike zone at the main league degree, that means at some level, framing and receiving could be much less essential and maybe that will improve his possibilities of staying behind the dish. By the finish of the season, although, rationalizing Wells as a catcher appeared much less mandatory.

Because of a major harm, which was associated to a foul tip and sounds too painful to kind, Wells caught a mixed 65 video games at Tampa, Hudson Valley, and Somerset in 2022, with the majority of his video games coming with the Patriots at Double-A. That shouldn’t be a full workload for a beginning catcher, but it surely seems to have been sufficient for Wells to affect the reviewers into having a rosier outlook on his future.

It is truthful to nonetheless query whether or not or not Wells is a MLB-caliber catcher, however some scouts have elevated him up as a defender by a full grade. Now, the phrase “beneath” is being dropped from its place previous “common.”

Baseball America, in the conclusion of Wells’ postseason scouting report, made mediocrity sound candy by claiming “He has the look of a masher who’s satisfactory behind the plate.” Teammates have taken be aware of Wells’ enchancment as a defender and a pacesetter on the discipline. In an interview with Randy Miller of NJ.com, pitcher Will Warren, himself a prime Yankee prospect, mentioned:

“Wells has 100% purchased in to being a catcher. He takes full accountability for no matter occurs, regardless of if the pitcher tousled or shook him off. You could see his maturity all through the yr calling video games. He’s for actual behind the plate now.”

In a separate interview with Miller, Wells himself remarked, “It’s been a two-year development and it looks like each week I’ve gotten higher. I’m making an attempt to proceed to construct off that. I get to construct relationships with nice pitchers all through all the ranges.”

Because Wells continues to work and enhance, the time to make a name on what sort of defensive participant he’s can be shouldn’t be now. He can be given an opportunity to show himself as a result of all he has completed is get higher in the two full seasons he is been a Yankee farmhand, and that makes him a really thrilling prospect.

If Austin Wells is a median main league catcher sometime, then he can be an above-average main league catcher, if that is smart. Offense at the catching place shouldn’t be robust in the recreation proper now. In the 2022 season, main league catchers mixed for a median slash line of .226/.295/.367 and 89 wRC+. Wells has put up a .270/.388/.493 line in two seasons in the minors and has by no means had a wRC+ decrease than 129 at any cease.

If you recall, Wells can hit, and that is all he is completed since placing on a Yankee uniform. The scouting stories on Wells at the plate have none of the hesitation you’ll find in the stories of him behind it.

MLB Pipeline says, “He’s a sophisticated hitter who acknowledges pitches and controls the strike zone whereas making exhausting contact to all fields from the left facet of the plate. He persistently drives the ball in the air and will hit for common and energy and draw loads of walks.” Baseball America, in the meantime, provides that “he combines glorious information of the strike zone with brute energy and a lofted swing path designed to hit balls exhausting and in the air.”

This ought to all be music to the ears of Yankee followers, as it isn’t tough to think about hard-hit fly balls off the bat of Wells touchdown in the quick right-field porch of Yankee Stadium.

Wells will must be added to the Yankees’ 40-man roster by December of 2023. He could push his manner onto it earlier than that point if he continues to indicate the progress and manufacturing he is demonstrated in his professional profession so far. It shouldn’t be far-fetched to suppose Wells could attain the large leagues in 2023, however a extra practical timeline would have him begin this season in Somerset after which earn a promotion to Triple-A a while in the center of the season.

If he completed the season there, he could be in place to take the backup catcher’s job in the Bronx in 2024 and probably take a major variety of at-bats, as a result of if what we have seen from Wells to date is for actual, he’ll give the Yankees the luxurious of an rising rarity. That is a catcher who can deservedly hit in the center of any lineup.

Other prime prospects:

5. Spencer Jones, OF
6. Everson Pereira, OF
7. Trey Sweeney, SS
8. Will Warren, RHP
9. Clayton Beeter, RHP
10. Johnny Brito, RHP
Bonus: Best of the Rest

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