Yankees catching prospect Austin Wells' September impact was almost symbolically overshadowed by Jasson Dominguez's remarkable debut. Both players pulled on a Yankee uniform on the very same day in Houston, and Wells smacked a line drive single in his first plate appearance -- which would've been noteworthy if Dominguez hadn't just found the Crawford Boxes with a career-defining home run.
By the end of the month, Dominguez's star had burned brightly and extinguished itself temporarily, as The Martian found himself swiftly laid up with a torn UCL. Wells? He had the full month's runway to get acclimated and used every second of it, perking up offensively in the final third. By the time the season ended, Wells had produced roughly league-average offense (97 OPS+), smashed four homers, posted small-sample-size bright red barrel numbers, and held his own defensively (anecdotally, but he registered as a solid framer).
Despite receiving prospect-related accolades in the past, MLB determined that Wells' proof was, in fact, not in the pudding on Thursday. MLB's prospect arm, MLB Pipeline, dropped their Top 10 Catching Prospects list, which did not include Wells in any slot. Considering the notorious weakness of the position and difficulty to find a standout bat behind the plate, we'd say he earned a second look.
Yankees catcher Austin Wells: Not a top-10 prospect?
Oh, so the Dodgers get two prospects on the list (Dalton Rushing at No. 6, Diego Cartaya at No. 10 after a backslide season), but the Yankees can't get one? What, New York doesn't get bonus points for carrying five catchers on the 40-man (side note: gotta sort that out)? Disgraceful.
Pipeline's opinion of Wells has never set the pace; at the end of 2023, he ranked seventh on the Yankees' Top 30 prospects list, which has yet to be refreshed for the 2024 season. There isn't a single name above him who doesn't deserve to be, depending on your opinion of the barely-debuted George Lombard Jr., but Baseball America recently ranked the Yankees' system highly, placing six players in their league-wide Top 100. As a fringe Top 100 name, Wells can't garner recognition? There are 10 catchers in Pipeline's version of the Top 100?
It's difficult to quibble with Pipeline's names, but we're going to anyway. Mitchell was drafted eighth overall by the Royals in 2023, but he can wait; he hit .147 in his short pro debut. Cartaya's star dimmed significantly in '23 after previously ranking as the Dodgers' top prospect; he hit .189 with 19 homers, and found himself surpassed by Rushing as both a trade chip and core player. Edgar Quero was a key piece of the Lucas Giolito trade, but hit just .255 with six homers and a .731 OPS across two stops.
Wells doesn't appear to be getting credit for carrying his ample power through the minors all the way to the bigs last season. In fact, he appears to be getting dinged for it. Keep your 2023 draft pedigree recency bias; Wells belongs among this group, especially if Cartaya's allowed to stay based on past laurels.