The MLB Draft will start this Wednesday. Over the next few days, we will profile several players the New York Yankees have been connected to who they could select with their first pick. You can find mock draft results and brief profiles herehere and here. This profile and others this week will be more detailed. Hopefully, the Yankees actually select one of these players! Up today: Austin Wells.
Wells is a catcher from the University of Arizona. He is a draft-eligible sophomore who the Yankees selected in the 35th round out of high school two years ago. Obviously he did not sign and went on to mash in college. He’s a 6’2” 220 lbs catcher who bats lefty.
Wells’ calling card is his offense. In the Cape Cod League last summer he hit .308/.389/.526 which is even more impressive considering it is a wood-bat league. In limited time this spring he continued to mash slashing .375/.527/.589 in 15 games.
MLB Pipeline ranked Wells as the 27th best prospect in the draft class and Baseball America has him at 21st. Keith Law of The Athletic is lower on Wells and ranked him 44th overall. Those rankings are all over the place because there is a debate over whether Wells can remain a catcher or even a viable defensive player. As a bigger guy – Wells is 6’2” 220 lbs and Gary Sanchez is 6’2” 230 lbs for reference – many scouts, including Law, doubt he can remain a catcher which lowers his overall value. BA notes Wells has seen time at 1B and all three outfield spots and could be athletic enough to profile in one of those positions. The bat is great. Wells is a power hitter with a good eye and he walked more than he struck out in college which is a tell-tale sign of a great approach at the plate. In recent mock drafts, Wells has gone anywhere from 26th to out of the first round. Furthermore, Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline mocked Wells to the Yankees. Here is a video:
Wells is exactly the kind of catcher the Yankees look for. Sanchez and recent draftees Pete O’Brien and Josh Breaux are all offensive-first catchers with questions over their defensive abilities. Catcher offense around the league is putrid, which is what makes Sanchez such a competitive advantage. Two other signs the Yankees like Wells are, they drafted him before and he performed well in the Cape Cod League. Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer has said some of the team’s late-round selections are strategic to build relationships, and Wells could be an example of that. They are also known to favor hitters who played in the Cape Cod League or other wood-bat leagues to see how their skills will translate to MLB. The biggest risk factor with Wells right now is that he has leverage as a draft-eligible sophomore. He can return to school and enter the draft again next year if teams aren’t willing to meet his price, and in this crazy year, the Yankees may not want that risk or be willing to meet Wells’ number. Personally I’m all about the upside and would be ecstatic with Wells as the first-round pick tonight.