SOM Week: Wells, Catching/DH, and More!
Welcome to "SOM Week"! 4 Days of articles from my time at Somerset. Today, we discuss Austin Wells, catching (DH'ing), and more!
Austin Wells warming up in 8th inning before his RBI-single
(Photo: Ethan Semendinger)
Austin Wells (C):
Game Statistics (9/16): 1-4, Single, RBI, Strikeout
Austin Wells was on the Yankees radar for a long time. Originally drafted out of Bishop Gorman High School (where Joey Gallo went) as a 35th round draft pick in the 2018 MLB First Year Player Draft, Wells opted not to sign and instead went to the University of Arizona. It turned to be a worthwhile investment, as the New York Yankees kept their tabs on him and ultimately selected him as their 1st round draft pick in the 2020 MLB First Year Player Draft, to which he did sign (for $2.5 million). He would then immediately become a Top-10 Yankees prospect and has even been considered a Top-100 MLB prospect (by MLB Pipeline) at the halfway point in this season.
To start the 2021 season, and his professional career, Austin Wells was assigned to the Tampa Tarpons (Class A), where he spent the first 2/3rds of the season before being promoted to the Hudson Valley Renegades (Class A+) to finish the season. He started again with the Tampa Tarpons to begin the 2022 season, and again quickly stopped with the Hudson Valley Renegades before being promoted to the Somerset Patriots (Double A) before the halfway point of the season. So far at the Double-A level, Wells is hitting to a .261/.360/.479/.839 quadruple slash with 12 home runs over 55 games.
During the game from this past Friday, Austin Wells batted 3rd and came through when it mattered most. In his first at-bat, he popped out to shortstop. He then struck out during his 3rd inning at-bat. Then, in the 6th inning, Wells struck out swinging again. However, he didn't let the going 0-3 with 2 strikeouts get in his way, as Wells collected the game-winning RBI with an 8th inning single to score Jasson Dominguez.
This was my first experience getting to see Austin Wells in person, and he did leave a positive impression on me. Even when striking out, he battled during each at-bat and was able to see a lot of pitches. Makes sense that he'd have a good understanding of the plate as he is a catcher.
And, like with Trey Sweeney yesterday, I did want to highlight Wells' defense. Everybody- for good reason- has pegged Wells as a player whose bat will play comfortably at any level. However, everybody- also for good reason- does have a doubt about Wells' ability to play defense. The New York Yankees just went through a multi-year stretch with a good-bat, poor-defending catcher behind the plate in Gary Sanchez and the rumors have been that Wells is another similar prototype.
Now, maybe it was just luck of the game, but I did not see any concerns from Wells as a receiver. There were no passed balls or wild pitches, and he was able to lead the pitchers to allow only 4 hits and 1 run over 9 innings of work. Obviously, a 9 inning sample size isn't going to confirm or deny anything (especially not defense), but I did not notice anything outside of the norm that would cause me to be concerned about his play on either side of the ball.
The infield alignment in Somerset on Friday night
(Photo: Ethan Semendinger)
Elijah Dunham (DH): 1-4, Single, K
Elijah Dunham came to be a part of the New York Yankees organization as a minor league free agent after going unselected in the 2020 MLB First Year Player Draft. Dunham had previously gone undrafted out of high school and went on to play college ball at the University of Indiana. After his junior season, he was selected as a 40th round draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, but opted not to sign and to continue and finish his degree at Indiana. Ultimately, he went undrafted in the abbreviated 2020 draft (which was shortened down to just 5 rounds) and he signed with the Yankees in the day following.
In 2021, the Yankees had Dunham start his professional career with the Tampa Tarpons (Class A) and moved him up after a month to the Hudson Valley Renegades (Class A+), which is where he finished out the season. This was not the end of professional baseball for Dunham that season, as he then played for the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League. For 2022, Dunham was promoted again, this time to the Somerset Patriots (Double A), where he has spent the whole season while hitting to a .248/.349/.448/.797 quadruple slash with 17 home runs.
When it came to game performances, Elijah Dunham started his game with a 2nd inning lead-off double, though did not come around to score. In the 4th inning, he lined out to third base. In the 6th inning, Dunham struck out swinging. And, he was the last Somerset batter to bat as he grounded into an inning-ending double play in the 8th inning.
An MLB gamecast still from a recent Yankees game, showing balls and strikes
Another day, another fun little note about being in the press box.
Yesterday I shared a funny story about being unable to get onto the Somerset Patriots WI-FI, during which I mentioned asking the people running the MiLB gamecast. While I didn't get what I was looking for from them, I did notice that it was a 3-man operation to run the program.
The man sitting on the left was in charge of making sure the result of each at-bat was recorded appropriately (i.e. what type of hit/out it was and to where). The girl in the middle seemed to be in charge of providing accessory information/statcast data (pitch speeds, types, etc.). And the woman sitting on the right was in charge of placing each pitch on the batter chart and to indicate balls and strikes.
(If you were watching the Somerset Patriots gamecast from this past Friday and noticed a delay during Austin Wells' first at-bat, that was my fault. I was talking to the three of them and had them get distracted.)
However, this is an interesting thing. We as baseball fans tend to use this type of data for different analysis and charting. We use this data to review umpires and players. Yet, there is no automation for how the pitches get entered. It's just 3 people doing their jobs.
And, I'm not faulting them at all. Even when I was distracting the three of them (and more importantly afterwards), they were charting the game action in good time and with good precision for what I was seeing. Props to them.
Just an interesting thing to note about how things were done in Somerset. Maybe it's different at the MLB level (though, I honestly wouldn't expect that), but it was cool to see.
Check back tomorrow for when I'm going to be talking about Clayton Beeter (the player traded for Joey Gallo from this past trade deadline), the pitching, and some more joys from the press box!
For other articles in this series, check these posts:
Saturday - Somerset Patriots & TD Bank Park
Tuesday - Trey Sweeney, the Infield, and More!