Austin Wells eyes expanded role after exceeding Yankees expectations in 2023 cameo

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Michael Bennington
Sunday January 28, 2024

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In September of last year, Austin Wells burst onto the scene with an impressive 19-game stint that caught the Yankees’ attention but left a lingering question: can he handle the demands of a full season behind the plate?

The upcoming Spring Training in Tampa is poised to provide the answer as Austin Wells gears up to compete with the incumbent, Jose Trevino, for playing time. While Trevino’s Gold Glove-caliber defense and leadership are highly valued, his offensive potential and rapid adaptation in September have created opportunities for a potential time-share arrangement.

Austin Wells better than expected

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(Jeff Roberson/AP)

The eagerly awaited return of Trevino from wrist surgery is crucial, given his acknowledged “enormous” impact on the pitching staff, as stated by Boone. However, Austin Wells’ impressive September performance, where he received praise from coaches and teammates for his work behind the plate and rapport with pitchers, has added an interesting dynamic to the competition. Boone himself conceded that Austin Wells “probably surpassed our expectations” defensively, even within the limited sample size.

Austin Wells’ hunger and dedication have not gone unnoticed, with catching coach Tanner Swanson highlighting his confidence, improved throwing velocity, and “super moldable” nature—indicating a player keen on refining his skills and making a positive contribution.

While advanced defensive metrics may be inconclusive due to the short stint, Austin Wells has addressed some concerns about his arm strength, now considered at least average or slightly above.

Undoubtedly, Trevino’s defensive prowess and leadership are undeniable, considering his reigning Gold Glove status and substantial influence on the pitching staff. However, Austin Wells’ offensive potential and defensive improvements offer an intriguing alternative, particularly against left-handed pitching.

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Twitter-@BRWalkoff

The addition of Ben Rortvedt, who admirably filled in for Trevino and established himself as Cole’s personal catcher, adds another layer to the competition. However, his lack of offensive production and out-of-options status make him a potential trade chip or waiver candidate.

New arrivals Carlos Narvez and Agustin Ramirez add depth to the catching position and provide insurance against injuries. Still, it is Austin Wells who stands to gain the most from Spring Training. No longer a rookie deprived of valuable time, he now emerges as a confident and developing prospect eager to carve out his niche in the Bronx.

Whether Austin Wells secures the starting spot, shares catching duties with Trevino, or serves as a versatile backup, one thing is certain: the Yankees‘ catching competition promises intrigue and a refreshing blend of experience and potential. As opening day approaches, it will be fascinating to see who steps behind the plate, ready to guide the Yankee pitching staff toward another playoff run.

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