TAMPA — As Gary Sanchez, Kyle Higashioka and the other experienced catchers in Yankees camp this spring get their work in, a new left-handed bat has stood out before appearing in a single professional game.
Catcher Austin Wells, the Yankees’ first-round pick last summer, has shown off some considerable power during batting practice.
“He can hit,’’ Aaron Boone said Saturday after pitchers and catchers worked out at the team’s minor league complex.
It’s not a surprise, since Wells’ bat is what made the Yankees take him with the 28th-overall pick, out of the University of Arizona, two years after they selected him in the 35th round out of high school.
“I really like his swing,’’ Boone said. “One of the things that stands out to me, that I didn’t necessarily know, is how strong he is. He’s as strong as anyone in camp, especially when you test him.”
There are questions about whether Wells will stay behind the plate. The Yankees have a pair of catching prospects ahead of him in the system after drafting Anthony Seigler and Josh Breaux in the first two rounds in 2018. In college, Wells also played first base and the outfield.
But there’s little doubt about his offense.
“Talking with [assistant hitting coach] P.J. Pilittere the other day about some of the conversations he’s having are pretty advanced, as far as from a hitting standpoint,’’ Boone said. “He’s a guy who loves hitting and understands it a little bit.”
Boone added that hitting coach Marcus Thames is also enthused by what he has seen from the 21-year-old.
“This is a guy that came with a really strong offensive reputation and our early eyes on him confirmed that,’’ Boone said.
In parts of two seasons at Arizona, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Wells hit .357 with an OPS of 1.035.
He also showed promise in the Cape Cod League in 2019, when he was named Outstanding Pro Prospect.
“I am a catcher and I want to be a catcher and I know I am willing to do whatever it takes to get to the big leagues, so if that is at another position then I will hit home runs at Yankee Stadium and play wherever they need me to,’’ Wells said after being drafted. “Being a catcher is what I want to do, but wherever my bat gets me to the big leagues the quickest for sure.’’