Yankees' Wells catching fire in AFL

October 22nd, 2021

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Wearing No. 13 in pinstripes and hailing from Las Vegas with a powerful left-handed swing, it’s … Austin Wells?

New York’s No. 6 prospect boasts similar physical traits to -- and shares a uniform number and a hometown with -- Yankees left fielder Joey Gallo. And if early returns on Wells’ Arizona Fall League campaign are any indication, he may have reminiscent pop too.

Wells went 3-for-4 with a homer, a double and a walk while scoring three runs in Surprise’s 17-2 win over Scottsdale on Thursday afternoon. His third-inning solo jack to right-center field was his first of the autumn, and his double in the second was his third in his past two games. He added a laser shot to right for a base hit in the seventh.

“I’ve really just been trying to see the ball,” the 22-year-old catcher said. “The first couple of games, I’m just trying to see my pitch and get adjusted to the [strike] zones here and staying short. And it’s been working pretty good.”

All three of his hits came against left-handed pitchers. Wells entered the at-bats focused on keeping his swing “short and quick” and with the mind-set to “do damage.”

That fallout is starting to accumulate. After opening the Fall League 2-for-9 over his first three games, the University of Arizona product delivered a four-hit, four-RBI showing Monday. That performance and Thursday's outing make him 9-for-18 with five extra-base hits over five games.

The level of competition Wells is facing in the AFL might be the highest since he attended the University of Arizona. He earned Pacific-12 Conference freshman of the year honors before being named second-team All-America in his sophomore year.

Heralded for his advanced offensive approach, the Yankees’ first-round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft split time between Low-A Tampa and High-A Hudson Valley in the 2021 season. He posted a combined slash line of .264/.390/.476 with 44 extra-base hits and 16 stolen bases across 103 games.

While it may not have the pop-culture prestige of the world-renowned “I Love New York” slogan, Wells offered up an “I love Arizona” after the Saguaros’ resounding victory.

When you’re hitting the ball as forcefully as Wells has to begin AFL play, what’s not to love?

Four other players in the Surprise lineup posted multi-hit performances Thursday, with No. 19 Nationals prospect Jackson Cluff and seventh-ranked Rangers prospect Ezequiel Duran (whom Texas acquired in the Gallo deal) both going yard.

Owen White, the reigning AFL Pitcher of the Week, started for Surprise and allowed two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out four in five innings. The Rangers' No. 29 prospect sat at 94-96 mph with his fastball while also showcasing sharp breaking stuff, including in a strikeout of second-ranked Red Sox prospect Triston Casas to conclude the third.