Yankees catching coordinator Aaron Gershenfeld had worked with Austin Wells, the club’s 2020 first-round pick out of Arizona, for months.
They talked over Zoom. They spoke on the phone. They examined video. But the coronavirus pandemic and the cancellation of the minor league season stopped them from connecting in person.
Then Gershenfeld and the Yankees’ player development department finally got their hands on the 21-year-old Wells when big league camp opened.
“From Day One,” Gershenfeld said, “he’s impressed.”
That’s music to the ears of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who hopes the 6-foot-2, 220-pound lefthanded hitter will be the Yankees’ catcher of the future.
Drafted No. 28 overall and signed for $2.5 million, Wells can hit. His quick, powerful swing projects to carry him through the farm system.
This spring, Wells went 2-for-7 with two singles and a walk—and held his own in live at-bats against Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton—before getting sent to minor league camp. He could start the season at Low-A Tampa.
But it’s the work he’s put in with big league catching coach Tanner Swanson and Gershenfeld that has the organization believing Wells can stay at catcher long term.
“It’s clear that there’s a hunger and a drive to improve, and that’s sustained throughout major league camp,” Gershenfeld said.
The coach added that Wells’ receiving has taken a step forward. As Wells has grown more accustomed to the one-knee catching stance the team has preached throughout its ranks, his glove routes have gotten smoother and crisper.
“Really trying to create as much efficiency possible into a fluid, one-piece move,” Gershenfeld said, “and keep the movement consistent throughout the reception and have continuity from start to finish and ultimately have the ability to pocket it.”
Gershenfeld said that he’s also been impressed with how Wells has carried himself around veterans.