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Yankees' Top Catching Prospect Earns Promotion to Double-A

Austin Wells is New York's No. 4 overall prospect, per MLB Pipeline.

Austin Wells is one step closer to the Bronx.

The Yankees' top catching prospect was promoted from High-A Hudson Valley to Double-A Somerset on Tuesday, the team announced.

Wells began the 2022 season with Hudson Valley, his second season of pro ball after getting drafted in the first round by the Yankees in 2020 (No. 28 overall pick out of Arizona).

After a brief stint on the injured list, Wells returned to action with Low-A Tampa, the affiliate where he spent the majority of last season. He played for the Tarpons for nine games, including Monday, before this promotion.

Across 37 games with Low-A Tampa and High-A Hudson Valley this year, Wells hit .304/.425/.568 with eight home runs, 22 RBI, 26 runs, 27 walks, nine stolen bases and nine doubles. 

Of those 37 contests, the backstop was situated behind the plate for 27 of them. He was penciled in at designated hitter for the other 10. 

Wells threw out 13 of the 35 runners trying to steal on him in High-A this season with only one passed ball. Last year, across two levels and 70 total games, he caught only 14 runners stealing on 112 tries with 16 passed balls.

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A few days ago, New York's catching prospect Josh Breaux was promoted from Double-A to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, opening the door for Wells' step forward. Breaux, the Yankees' No. 25 prospect, was batting .204/.273/.436 with 13 homers and 29 RBI in 53 games with Somerset. 

Wells is ranked as New York's No. 4 prospect by MLB.com, situated behind shortstops Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza and outfielder Jasson Dominguez. The catcher will turn 23 on July 12.

Here's his MLB Pipeline scouting report:

The Yankees have an affinity in general for offensive-minded catchers and in particular for Wells, whom they drafted in the 35th round from a Las Vegas high school in 2018 and 28th overall in the first round out of Arizona two years later. He won the Pacific-12 Conference freshman of the year and Cape Cod League top prospect awards in 2019, his lone full college season, before signing for $2.5 million as a sophomore-eligible. He posted an .867 OPS with 16 homers and as many steals while advancing to High-A in his pro debut, then continued to rake in the Arizona Fall League. 

Wells has lived up to his reputation as one of the top all-around college bats in the 2020 Draft. He's an advanced hitter who recognizes pitches and controls the strike zone while making hard contact to all fields from the left side of the plate. He consistently drives the ball in the air and should hit for average and power and draw plenty of walks. 

Though Wells is willing to put in the work to improve behind the plate, few scouts outside of the organization believe he'll be a long-term catcher. Elbow problems that started in high school have left him with a below-average arm and he lacks soft hands, which resulted in 98 steals (at an 87 percent success rate) and 16 passed balls in 70 games last season. He has fringy speed and moves well enough to be able to handle a shift to left field, which could enable him to maximize his offensive production at a far less demanding position. 

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