After missing out on his first professional season last year due to the pandemic, Yankees catching prospect Austin Wells is wasting no time proving that he's capable of producing past the collegiate level.
In his minor-league debut on Tuesday, suiting up for the Low-A Tampa Tarpons, Wells crushed his first home run of his pro career. He finished 2-for-4 on the day with a double, three runs scored, three RBI and two walks in an 11-7 victory over the Dunedin Blue Jays.
New York's farm system is loaded with talented catchers, spread out across the minor leagues. What sets Wells apart, however, is his ability to swing the bat.
During spring training, Yankees manager Aaron Boone praised the first-round pick, saying he's as strong in the box as any other player at big-league camp. New York's catching coach Tanner Swanson went on to refer to the Arizona product as the "gold standard."
Once the Yankees departed from Tampa, heading up to the Bronx for the regular season, Wells continued to get his work in. The team's senior director of player development Kevin Reese kept a close eye on the backstop, explaining this week that he's continued to turn heads on and off the field.
"Both the pitchers that threw to him and the coaches that worked with him were very impressed. Super mature guy, both physically and mentally," Reese said in a Zoom call with reporters on Monday. "He performed well for us, he continued to turn heads in minor-league camp. [Starting him in Low-A] is just kind of a little bit of 'you got to do your time.'"
Wells compiled some valuable reps facing big-league pitching during spring training, whether it was facing arms like ace Gerrit Cole in simulated games, or stepping in against opposing hurlers in Grapefruit League play. There were some moments throughout the spring where Wells hit the ball as hard as his big-league teammates.
Reese added that the competition between the catchers within this organization—from Wells to prospects Josh Breaux and Anthony Seigler—will "bode well" as everyone aims to "climb the ladder" toward the big leagues.
Wells is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Yankees' No. 6 prospect with an estimated arrival to the big-league club in 2023. Until then, all eyes will be on his production as he works his way from Low-A to the show.
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