2020 MLB Draft: A Conversation With Austin Wells
Last week Baseball America talked with Arizona catcher Austin Wells as part of our Draft Stock Watch series, this time focusing on draft-eligible sophomores. We also talked with Wells about his time at Arizona, his development as a catcher and how he's taking on a bigger role this spring as a team leader. You can see the rest of that conversation below.
Baseball America: How have these two years in college transformed you as a player?
Austin Wells: These last two years being here at Arizona has been the best decision of my life. I’ve grown as a player, as a person, as a leader in ways that I couldn’t even imagine if I hadn’t come here. Learning how to work, and the amount of work that it actually takes as a team to really get where you want to go and what you want to achieve.
Having that team aspect these last two years has really made my leadership role grow a lot. Just maturing and taking control and leading by example, but also holding people accountable on the team. There’s been a lot of life skills that I’ve learned, as well as growing on the field as well.
BA: What are some of the areas that you've grown on the field?
AW: I think I made some improvements (hitting). I mean, I try to make improvements all the time. But making an adjustment from high school to college, really there was only a few little things: Making sure I get my foot down on time; loading earlier; loading smoother so I have more time to really react and see the pitch.
This last summer in the Cape I really worked on the separation part of my swing. Just getting separated which improved some of the power that I had. That improved the power that I had this summer and into the fall for sure. Just small improvements to continue to get better and better and get a little bit more of an advantage.
One of the things that I’ve been really priding myself on this last year especially is the catching aspect. That’s been a huge focus for me, starting in the fall. Just kind of totally revamping and looking at what I was and what I wanted to do and realizing that I needed to make some big steps forward in the fall. Starting with flexibility and getting lower so that I could get under balls, be more receptive with pitches. Just being able to move better behind the plate. And I really think I’ve made huge strides with that.
BA: When did you realize you needed to bear down on that area of your game? And how difficult is that to improve?
AW: Once my freshman year was over I realized that if I wanted to be the best catcher in the country then I’m going to have to step up my game to a whole new level. That started with watching film on myself and comparing it to different things and talking through it with coach (Dave Lawn) here at U of A and also coach (Nate Yeskie) when he came here to campus. Both those guys have had really good input and we have worked hard together.
The first part was just flexibility, which was one of the biggest things for me. Getting my hips loosened up so I could get lower and block balls better and be under the baseball instead of just trying to catch it. So we started there and started working more on the glove side of things. I feel like a completely different catcher. Completely different person behind the plate and I’m really excited to get it going.
BA: Being draft-eligible this year do you often think about what could happen this June? And did you think you had the potential to be a first rounder?
AW: Since I got on campus in the fall the focus for me has been just do whatever it takes for us to win and take that next step forward as a team. I have not had very much focus on draft stuff. And it’s in part due to the fact that I am sophomore-eligible, which gives that leeway. I can do whatever really is best for me. Right now the focus is on this season and just having a good year with the team. Making a regional and hosting a regional even. That’s our goal for sure.
For the potential part of it. If I said I didn’t believe that I had the potential then I would be crazy. I think everyone needs to have that belief that you are the best and that you can be the best. Just so that it breeds that mindset and you work that way.
BA: Is there anything else you want to touch on as far as the last two years with Arizona?
AW: The coaching staff has been a huge impact on me as well, that’s one of the reasons I came to Arizona… Those guys have definitely helped me along with those pieces I was talking about with maturity and leadership aspect. Just taking on a leadership role that I didn’t have last year.
BA: Following up on that, was it difficult to get acclimated to that part of the college game, that sort of off the field stuff and everything that comes with it as a college student?
AW: The transition for me, it was pretty smooth. At my high school there’s a lot of work we have to do for school. It was almost easier on the class load because I didn’t have class for eight hours a day… I was able to do it at that pace and have more free time and practice three or four hours a day, going at it.
It was not a big adjustment for me. It was pretty natural just to step in and take on the added responsibility of going to practice, practicing every day, weights in the morning, class during the day. Setting that routine for me, which made it easier to adjust and make those steps on the baseball field.