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  • E.J. Fagan

Could Austin Wells Be the Next Jorge Posada?

by EJ Fagan

May 8, 2024

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NOTE: The following comes from EJ Fagan's substack page and is shared with permission.


Please check out EJ's substack page for more great articles.

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I used to be an Austin Wells doubter. I think he has won me over.


It’s easy to forget that Wells was a highly regarded first round pick in 2020, and definitely not a weird Yankees sleeper first round pick. Wells actually ranked well above Anthony Volpe on most prospect rankings before Volpe’s 2021 breakout season. He hit the cover off the ball at Arizona, winning PAC-12 freshman of the year and Cape Cod League player. Despite being a draft-eligible sophomore, Wells was considered one of the top college hitters in his draft year.


The knock against Wells, and this should sound familiar, was his catch-and-throw defense. Scouts didn’t expect him to stick at catcher. Wells fell all the way to the Yankees at 28, which is exactly where almost every mock draft predicted him to go.


I bring up Wells’ history for two reasons. First, because I often forget that Wells has long been considered a tip-top offensive talent. Second, because I’m pretty sure that if scout’s crystal ball pointed toward Wells as a average-ish defensive catcher in the major leagues, he would have gone much, much higher.


Wells did nothing but hit in the minor leagues. He hit:


  • Low-A: .251/.394/.477, 20% strikeout rate, (79 games)

  • High-A: .294/.398/.514, 28% strikeout rate, (66 games)

  • Double-A: .248/.343/.460, 23% strikeout rate, (113 games)

  • Triple-A: .245/.349/.452, 17% strikeout rate (33 games)

  • AZFL: .344/.456/.578, 20% strikeout rate (18 games)


Wells has been remarkably consistent, and arguably improved his overall approach against tougher pitchers. All while investing a ton of time and energy into improving at catcher.

That brings us to 2024. The topline numbers look ugly. Even after his recent hot streak, Wells is hitting .196/.339/.294. But let’s take a deeper look at his Statcast page:



His defense is fine. Wells is a well below average receiver and thrower, but far from the worst in the league. He offsets those deficiencies by being one of the game’s best framers. I think everyone watching basically agrees with that assessment: Wells is a good enough major league catcher.


At the same time, Statcast suggests that Wells has been one of the unluckiest batters in the major leagues. Wells ranks 14th in xwOBA, second on the Yankees and ahead of big names like Freddie Freeman, Mike Trout, Gunnar Henderson and Rafael Devers.


His K/BB rates are elite. He barrels the ball more than any Yankee not named Soto. If Wells had normal batted ball luck, we might be hearing “MVP” chants.


Do you believe it? I kind of do. Wells looks like a major league hitter who can hit for average, take a ton of walks, and mash 20-25 home runs with full playing time. He’s pretty athletic for a catcher. The bunt hits were impressive, and Wells can run pretty well. No one disputes that he can handle the rigor and mental game of baseball either.


Also, that’s exactly the hitter he looked like at the draft. Wells did not come out of nowhere. He has always been an incredibly talented hitter.


He might not post a .413 wOBA in the majors, but he can be a lot worse and still be a perpetual major league all star. Some guy named Jorge Posada posted a .367 wOBA throughout his career.


Small sample, high variance prospect caveats aside: it’s not crazy to compare Austin Wells to Jorge Posada.

9 Comments


Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
May 08

It is a very rare commodity in today's game (unlike the 70's when there were lots of them) to have a catcher who can not only be effective defensively behind the plate, but also provide significant offense. Wells has that potential, and that is why I am rooting so hard for him. Pitchers love having Wells catch them, and they love the way Wells calls a game for them. As Wells develops more major league experience, he is going to get even better at calling games than he already is. I never liked having "easy outs" in the lineup, just so you can have a good defensive catcher calling the game for the pitcher, so if your catcher can …

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fuster
May 08

Wells may well be a fine back-up, a good hitter who can play as a catcher.


finding a first-rate catcher who can hit really well is a rarity. a guy such as Rutschman is always going to be so prized as to be unavailable after the initial few picks in the draft


given that the Yankees are not going to get an early pick in other than a blue moon

they must usually innovate or settle

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Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
May 08
Replying to

"a good hitter who can play as a catcher"


You mean like Ted Simmons? Seemed to work out ok for his career.

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Alan B.
Alan B.
May 08

It took Posada a few years of job sharing before he became POSADA.


Wells doesn't look the least bit overmatched at the plate despite the actual results. As for how he is defensively, with the way Manfred's Rules work, a catcher's throwing arm is really diminished. He isn't exactly having a ton of WP or PB in the games he catches. Once they bring up the ABS system or Robo umps, pitch framing will be useless, and the catching on one knee will be a thing of the past.

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Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
May 08
Replying to

Right now, Trevino is the better option both offensively (105 OPS+!) and defensively. At some point, I expect Wells will start hitting in better luck, and he'll be much better offensively, and he's shown his defense is adequate. As I said to fuster above, if Wells has a career like Ted Simmons, there won't be much to complain about.

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