Austin Wells’ role behind the plate compels Yankees to ignore his offensive drought

Yankees' backstop Austin Wells

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The New York Yankees continue to stick with Austin Wells in the lineup overlooking his offensive struggles. It’s because his role behind the plate has a much more upside to overshadow his batting woes. Despite currently at a .091 batting average, Austin Wells’ defensive prowess continues to impress.

Austin Wells’ performance on Saturday against the Rays might appear underwhelming on the surface – going hitless in a 10-inning loss – but there was a bright side to his outing. His role on the team extends beyond hitting, as he often shares catching duties with the veteran, Jose Trevino. Trevino, a 2022 All-Star and Gold Glove winner, has been on fire offensively recently.

Here’s a surprising stat that highlights the impact of the catchers on the Yankees’ pitching staff: pitchers boast a 3.25 ERA when throwing to Trevino and an even lower 2.54 ERA when Austin Wells is calling the game.

Nestor Cortes, who pitched seven shutout innings with Austin Wells as his catcher on Saturday, expressed his confidence in both catchers. He highlighted his trust in their abilities, explaining that having them behind the plate allows him to compete with an aggressive approach. Cortes also emphasized the importance of their pre-game strategy sessions in achieving success on the mound.

Austin Wells battles slump but shines behind the plate


At 24 years old, Austin Wells has shown remarkable growth over the past year. Initially, concerns existed regarding his receiving skills, with some suggesting a potential position change to first base or the outfield. However, he defied these doubts, particularly after his minor league debut.

A turning point came in late 2023 when Austin Wells received his first major league call-up on September 1st. Over the month, he impressed manager Aaron Boone. Not only did his powerful left-handed swing produce four home runs and 13 RBIs in just 19 games, but his game-calling and receiving skills also drew praise.

This momentum continued into spring training. Austin Wells continued to shine defensively behind the plate, while also showcasing his offensive potential with a .300 average, two home runs, and nine RBIs during Grapefruit League play. These impressive performances solidified his spot on the Yankees‘ roster, even sparking discussions about him starting over veteran catcher Jose Trevino.

However, despite seeing significant playing time, Austin Wells has recently faced a hitting slump. Over his last 25 plate appearances, he’s collected zero hits in 20 at-bats, managing only five walks. Despite this frustration, Wells maintains a positive and resilient attitude.

Acknowledging the pressure that comes with limited hits, Austin Wells emphasizes the supportive team environment. He credits his teammates for fostering a positive atmosphere without undue pressure, allowing him to focus on improvement.

“I definitely think it’s under a bigger microscope when you don’t have a bulk of at-bats to show for anything,” the backstop said. ”But I feel like everyone’s been great about not putting any pressure on anything. Everything internal wise has been really good.”

Manager Aaron Boone offers a balanced perspective on Austin Wells’ struggles. While acknowledging the low batting average, Boone suggests it may not fully represent the quality of the catcher’s at-bats. He recognizes Austin Wells’ competitive spirit and points to instances where he has made solid contact but just missed connecting with the ball. This highlights his continued determination and resilience at the plate, despite the recent statistical dip.

“Obviously his numbers would suggest that he’s really struggling,” Boone said. “If you watch his at-bats, there’s been a number of balls that he’s just missed. He’s having really competitive at-bats.”

Wells stays upbeat to rebound soon

Yankees rookie catcher Austin Wells at Tampa spring training camp in Feb 2024.

Despite a recent slump at the plate, Austin Wells remains confident in his abilities and is determined to rediscover his rhythm.

The rookie acknowledges the frustration of not seeing immediate results, but his unwavering belief in his pre-game preparation and consistent approach keeps him optimistic. With a long season ahead (162 games), Austin Wells is convinced his efforts will translate into positive outcomes on the field.

Interestingly, he sees parallels between his current struggles and his early success last season. Austin Wells observes opposing pitchers using a similar strategy of off-speed pitches mixed with occasional fastballs, a tactic he feels prepared to counter.

While analytics reveal a decrease in Austin Wells’ average exit velocity (from 89.5 mph to 85.1 mph), there’s a positive trend in his chase rate. This year, he’s chasing pitches outside the strike zone less often (26.7%) compared to last September (37%). The Yankees catcher credits this improvement to his increased selectivity with off-speed pitches early in the count, indicating a more disciplined approach at the plate.

Despite facing tough pitching, Austin Wells’ confidence remains unshaken. He expressed a positive outlook on his future performance, even on the day of the interview.

While his hitting struggles haven’t gone unnoticed, Austin Wells’ defensive skills remain a significant asset. Manager Aaron Boone echoes this sentiment, expressing full confidence in his abilities. Boone knows the importance of capitalizing on opportunities and remains confident in Austin Wells’ potential offensive contributions. He expects him to emerge as a valuable asset for the Yankees as the season progresses.

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