Austin Wells forgoes home comfort for grind in Tampa to prep for big spring

Yankees catcher Austin Wells alights from a bus at Tampa training Complex in 2023.

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Following their pivot to a youthful approach, the Yankees extended the long-awaited MLB invitation to Austin Wells on September 1. The rookie catcher immediately took to the field and settled behind the plate. His home runs powered the Yankees in their struggle to end the season on a winning note.

While his remarkable start with the Yankees sparks high expectations, Austin Wells is eager to build on the strong Yankees’ first impression. The catcher aims for a top standout spring training performance and for this, he is ready to put off hometown life and train in Tampa. Austin Wells plans to start his training next month at the Yankees training complex with his sight set on spring excellence.

“In Vegas, there isn’t really a convenient baseball training facility with guys who are constantly there working,” Austin Wells informed NJ Advance Media after the last game against the Royals. “We have great crew down there, a great support staff that I’ll be able to use whenever down there. So I think it gives me the best opportunity for success during the offseason.”

Austin Wells is off to a hot start with Yankees

The rookie catcher made a remarkable impression both defensively and offensively during his initial month in the major leagues. He garnered accolades from nearly every pitcher he collaborated with and displayed offensive growth as he adapted to facing unfamiliar pitchers. At the age of 24, Austin Wells showcased a good result after his MLB call-up. His start was less than stellar, but he hit his stride halfway through his 19-game tenure.

Over his final 11 games of the season, Austin Wells exhibited an impressive batting performance, boasting a .317 batting average, a .333 on-base percentage, and a .732 slugging percentage (going 13-for-41) while tallying four home runs, 10 RBIs, and seven runs scored.


When it comes to his defensive abilities behind the plate, Austin Wells acknowledges the need for improvement in controlling the running game. He managed to thwart just three of the 20 base runners who attempted to steal against him. Nonetheless, he demonstrated an elite exchange time of 0.60 seconds and a steadily improving arm strength of 80.6 mph, resulting in a respectable 1.91 pop time. This pop-time statistic places Austin Wells on par with Orioles standout Adley Rutschman, ranking as the 15th-best mark among all major league catchers.

This development is particularly heartening for a prospect who has frequently been labeled as a defensive liability by scouts. Austin Wells’ capacity to fly under the radar and perform admirably behind the plate last month is a positive indication that he is in a constant state of development and improvement, effectively putting to rest the doubts that have been raised about his defensive skills. The testimonials from his manager and pitchers provide compelling evidence of his progress.

Austin Wells turns heads early on at Yankees spring training

Yankees' Austin Wells is at Tampa during a practice session.

Looking to maintain this positive momentum and make the most of the Yankees’ exceptional training facilities, Austin Wells intends to establish his base in Tampa as early as the upcoming month. This decision allows the Las Vegas native to gain an early advantage for what promises to be a crucial offseason and his first injury-free spring training experience at the big-league camp.

Austin Wells explained that in Las Vegas, there wasn’t a readily accessible baseball training facility with dedicated individuals constantly working on their skills. He added that they had a fantastic support staff in Vegas that he could utilize whenever he was there. The catcher expressed that this setup would provide him with the best chance for success during the offseason.

During the upcoming winter, Austin Wells is determined to hone his skills and achieve greater consistency both defensively and offensively. While his aim in September was to demonstrate his capability to compete at the major league level, his next objective is to translate a brief stint into a productive and successful rookie season.

Austin Wells observed that the most enlightening aspect of playing in the majors was that it was essentially the same game as in the minor leagues. He noted that the key difference was facing opponents who had been in the league for a decade or more. Playing against experienced players who were skilled and strategized to gain any advantage to secure outs was a valuable experience. He expressed his eagerness to continue honing his skills and engaging in the mental aspect of the game while facing such seasoned opponents.

The manager admires Wells’ dedication

Aaron Boone praised the player for his exceptional performance behind the plate, noting that Austin Wells had likely exceeded their initial expectations in that role. Boone also commended his work with the pitchers, emphasizing his skill in building relationships with them. The Yankees manager mentioned that the player had earned the respect of the pitching staff through his presence, intelligence, ability to handle information, and capacity to comprehend and apply it effectively.

Boone expressed that the player’s presence had increased his enthusiasm for the future even more than before Austin Wells had joined the team.

Austin Wells is set to be a part of the active roster alongside Jose Trevino as the Yankees begin their preparations for next March. Despite this, he remains humble and avoids presumptions about his position on the depth chart. With catchers like Kyle Higashioka, and Ben Rortvedt, and promising minor league talents such as Ben Rice and Carlos Narvaez, Wells acknowledges that he’s just one component of a highly competitive catcher group within the organization, a challenge he appreciates.

He acknowledged that there were numerous factors beyond his control. However, Austin Wells expressed his commitment to giving his best and building upon the progress he had achieved during his time there, looking ahead to 2024. He also highlighted the depth of talent they had at the catcher position, which he viewed as a positive challenge. Austin Wells believed that this depth pushed him to improve and strive for excellence, benefitting both the Yankees and himself.

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