Arizona catcher Austin Wells is set to receive a signing bonus of approximately $2.5 million from the New York Yankees as the 28th pick overall in the first round of the MLB draft on Wednesday night.
Judging from comments by analysts of ESPN and MLB Network, that will be a good investment for the Yankees. New York already knew of Wells’ worth before he headed to Arizona in 2018. The Yankees selected him in the 35th round out of Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High School that year.
The question going around New York: Where will Wells play in the minors working his way up, especially with the Yankees having 27-year-old power-hitting catcher Gary Sanchez (a team-record 34 homers for a catcher last year)?
The Yankees selected catcher Austin Wells 28th overall.
This is the second time in the last 3 years that the Yankees have selected a catcher with their first pick.
Last season, Yankees catcher Gary Sánchez hit 34 HR, the most by a catcher in a season in franchise history. pic.twitter.com/cFsECLuD6O
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 11, 2020
“I think it’s a good pick late in the first round (because) that is exactly what the Yankees are buying there (as they) figure out the position when he gets to the pro game,” MLB Pipeline’s draft expert Jonathan Mayo said on the MLB Network of Wells, who is 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds.
“It’s the hit and the power tools that really stand out. He’s always been able to hit. He’s put up very good numbers. Controls the strike zone well, so he’s going to get to that power.”
Wells’ athleticism and versatility — he played five positions in the Cape Cod League last summer and stole eight bases without getting caught — has baseball people thinking he may play a different position than catcher with the Yankees in the long run.
“Maybe he’s another guy that you send out as a catcher and see what happens,” Mayo said. “Unlike Kyle Schwarber, he’s been seen playing other positions. He’s played the outfield. He’s played some first base. So there’s some comfort level knowing that if you have to move him, he’s going to be just fine in any of those spots. That left-handed power, though, should get him to the big leagues quickly.”
— Arizona Athletics (@AZATHLETICS) June 11, 2020
In his two-year career at Arizona, Wells played 71 games and batted .357 with seven home runs and 74 RBIs in 277 at-bats. In 42 games in the Cape Cod League, he batted .308 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs. He played at catcher, first base and all outfield positions last summer.
ESPN college baseball analyst Chris Burke went so far as to suggest Wells could wind up at first base.
“He really projects to play first base,” Burke said during the ESPN telecast. “Maybe you can even take him to the outfield.”
Wells played some first base at Arizona, so he’s no stranger to the position.
— NYYPlayerDev (@NYYPlayerDev) June 11, 2020
Nobody is questioning Wells’ hitting ability especially with him potentially showing left-handed power at Yankee Stadium.
He knows how to get on base with a .527 on-base percentage during this shortened season with the Wildcats because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He had a .462 on-base percentage last year in 56 games.
“You love the on-base (percentage), you love the hit tool and the body as a big-time frame, too,” Burke said. “He’s kind of a sleepy athlete, too. He can really get around the basepaths.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.