Yankees Draft: Austin Wells Selection a Warning for Gary Sanchez?
The New York Yankees draft featured their second first-round pick in the last three years spent on a catcher to compete with Gary Sanchez.
There have been a lot of questions surrounding the Yankees’ selection of Austin Wells in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft on Wednesday night. The second catcher taken in the first round over the last three years? Why not take a pitcher, considering New York had to surrender its second- and fifth-round picks as compensation for signing Gerrit Cole? When Gary Sanchez is fully entrenched as the starter and is under team control through 2023?
Could that last question have an answer, though? While El Gary as certainly had success at the MLB level, he’s yet to play in more than 122 games in a season (he’s appeared in just 317 games over the past three years), his defense (aside from his arm) is largely atrocious, and he fails to deliver in the postseason (.176/.225/.382 slash line in 27 games).
And now, we’ve seen scouting reports suggest that Wells’ left-handed bat could expedite his promotion to the big leagues. If that’s the case, we can expect to see the slugger in pinstripes well before the 2024 season, meaning the Yanks could be doing their part to challenge Sanchez.
Did the 2020 Yankees draft portend Gary Sanchez’s unfortunate future?
Sure, it seems like a stretch because Wells might not even project to be a catcher at the big-league level, but his future behind the plate has yet to be ruled out (he’s versatile, having played first base and the outfield as well). What if he happens to succeed defensively behind the plate and his bat continues on its current trajectory? What if Gary fails to take the next step across the 2020 and 2021 seasons? With Anthony Seigler struggling mightily since joining the organization in 2018, Wells could be viewed as the next valuable piece, considering he’s a lefty-hitting catcher.
The bottom line is that this could be a play for a few years down the road, and with the MLB ready to institute a universal DH, perhaps the Yanks would be willing to move Sanchez when the number of suitors doubles (after all, El Gary playing one side of the ball seems like the best answer, at this point). When you think about it, Giancarlo Stanton isn’t going anywhere with his behemoth of a contract, so expect him to be the Bombers’ DH for quite a while.
Nonetheless, this could be an all-around win for the Yanks. Wells’ selection could light a fire under Sanchez and help him improve his defense and timely hitting. If he does, Wells (assuming everything goes to plan) could find another role on the MLB roster in the outfield or at first base. If Sanchez doesn’t deliver, and Wells continues to improve defensively as a catcher, there’s potential for there to be a seamless transition at the position.
Overall, if Wells pans out as a draft pick, the move could work out in a number of ways for the Yanks, regardless of whether or not Sanchez becomes the player the organization hopes he can be.