Yankees' First-Round Pick Austin Wells Draws Comparisons to Kyle Schwarber, Bryce Harper
Each player selected in the first round of the MLB Draft on Wednesday night will draw comparisons to Major League ballplayers. After all, these phenoms are the next wave of prospects to make the big leagues in a few years time.
The names associated with New York's first-round pick Austin Wells, however, certainly give Yankees fans a reason to be excited about his future.
Wells, a catcher from the University of Arizona, has plenty of pop in his powerful left-handed swing. When considering his trajectory on the defensive side of the ball as he continues to develop, Wells is very similar to Chicago Cubs' slugger Kyle Schwarber.
"His bat should play regardless of his eventual defensive position and he could end up following a Kyle Schwarber type path to the big leagues," Wells' scouting report on MLB.com reads.
Schwarber was a catcher at the University of Indiana, transitioning into his role as a full-time outfielder prior to his big-league debut.
Although he was drafted out of the catcher position, Wells has experience at other positions on the field. He made appearances at both first base and both corner outfield positions across his one-plus seasons at Arizona.
Schwarber's name comes up seemingly every year as a player the Yankees organization would love to add. With a lefty swing that's tailor made for the short porch at Yankee Stadium, his offensive production could be maximized out of the designated hitter spot.
Wells is years away from crushing 38 home runs in a single season – as the Cubs' left fielder did in 2019 – but his numbers from college are proof of his potential.
Across two years at Arizona – including a sophomore season cut short by the novel coronavirus pandemic – Wells posted a .357 batting average (99-for-277) with 85 runs scored, 74 RBI and 63 walks. In 2019, Wells was recognized as the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. He was even better during his brief sophomore season, improving statistically across the board.
"It’s the hit and the power tools that really stand out," MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo said on MLB Network after the selection was made Wednesday night. "He’s always been able to hit ... Unlike Kyle Schwarber, he’s been seen playing other positions. He’s played the outfield. He’s played some first base. So there’s some comfort level knowing that if you have to move him, he’s going to be just fine in any of those spots. That left-handed power, though, should get him to the big leagues pretty quickly."
Don't completely rule out the possibility of Wells sticking at catcher. After allowing 10 passed balls in 262 innings as a freshman, Wells maintained a 1.000 fielding percentage this year while permitting only one passed ball in 100 innings.
Wells is listed at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. That's virtually the exact same height and weight as the Yankees' current starting catcher Gary Sánchez.
What won't show in the box scores is Wells' hustle, hard work and dedication to his craft. His high school coach, Gino DiMaria, compared that side of Wells' game to another native of Las Vegas, Bryce Harper.
"If you remember when Bryce Harper first came into the pros, he came lights out,” DiMaria told Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media. "He played hard. He tried to outrun every ground ball. He did everything.
"That’s what you’re going to get when you get Austin Wells."
The head coach at Bishop Gorman HS – the same school that produced Texas Rangers' slugger Joey Gallo – explained Wells and Harper have a relationship as well. The six-time All-Star and former Most Valuable Player Harper has been known to take batting practice at Bishop Gorman in the past.
“He’ll never have a negative thing and he’ll never have a negative impact on that organization,” DiMaria told Kuty on Wells. “Everything is positive. He’s a hard worker. He comes from a phenomenal family that supports him. He’s really, truly loyal to whoever he’s with. They’re going to get a hard-nosed player. They’re going to get a player that’s going to leave everything on that field.”
Regardless of the position he ends up playing down the road, the Yankees are evidently very happy with the selection. New York picked Wells out of high school two years ago (in the 35th round of the 2018 MLB Draft) so they've had their eye on his progress.
“We thought he was one of the top hit and power combinations in the draft," said Damon Oppenheimer, New York's Vice President of Domestic Amateur Scouting "We love his desire and makeup, along with his athleticism. We have known him for years and seen him progress quite a bit behind the plate to allow us to believe he can be an impact guy.”
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