Will Yankees dare try unorthodox top prospect solution for left field hole?
Not sure if you’re aware, but the New York Yankees have a left field problem (unless you consider Aaron Hicks a solution). Not good. Pretty bad. Should probably be looked into.
Luckily — and say it with us now — it doesn’t totally matter who the Opening Day left fielder is. All that matters is that the Yankees find their footing by the end of the year, utilizing the trade deadline and minor-league promotions to maximize their roster.
Hell, just look at last year’s Opening Day lineup, which featured Hicks, Joey Gallo, Kyle Higashioka and Isiah Kiner-Falefa (and beat the Red Sox, by the way). The Yankees took too long to deemphasize IKF, but they managed to extricate the other three from the batting order before the end of the season.
Others have said it, and said it loudly, but the Yankees’ postseason left fielder is probably not on the roster right now, unless Oswaldo Cabrera goes on a hell of a run.
Heard you’re running low on lefties, huh, Cashman? It’d be a shame if you just … let Austin Wells crack the big-league roster in June and saw where it went from there.
Yankees top prospect catcher Austin Wells for left field in 2023?
Hey, it’d feel more encouraging than penciling Max Kepler in there!
The 23-year-old Wells isn’t often included in the top tier of Yankees prospects, but he usually sits just below Jasson Dominguez offensively, and certainly wields a more polished plug-and-play bat at this point in time.
Though his experience ended with 55 games in Double-A last season, he figured out the level quickly, posting an .839 OPS and 12 homers, finishing the year with an .897 mark overall across 92 games/three levels.
Of course, it’s par for the course that he landed on his feet after being given a promotion. Coming out of Arizona in 2020, most evaluators believed Wells was a big-league bat without a position, and could reach the majors sooner than later if some team was willing to develop his defense on the fly.
He’s been a left fielder, first baseman and catcher in the past, and the Yankees, to their credit, have been relentlessly dedicated to uncovering whether or not they can keep him behind the plate. In 2022, he only took reps at catcher and DH.
That said, Oswaldo Cabrera wasn’t an outfielder by any stretch of the imagination until he was pressed into duty last summer and picked up the glove Aaron Boone requested. Wells is an unorthodox solution, to say the least, but most agree the bat will play. If he’s raking by midsummer and the Ian Happ/Bryan Reynolds prices are too high (or they’re not for sale), the Yankees are more likely to displace Hicks than Jose Trevino. As long as they’re feeling daring.