Being drafted for a second time by the Yankees and a lot higher than the first stab flushed any thought of returning to college out of Austin Wells’ head.
The Yankees’ first-round pick in Wednesday night’s draft was asked Thursday on a conference call if the strong possibility of not having minor league games to play in this summer led him to think about a third year at the University of Arizona.
“Honestly, the decision was up to where I got drafted and what the program was. I don’t think whether or not there was minor league games was the decision-maker if I was going back to college or not,’’ said Wells, a left-handed hitting catcher who was selected in the first round with the 28th pick two years after being taken in the 35th round by the Yankees. “I think it was the best fit for me to move on, go forward and be a Yankee.’’
Wells is being advised by Scott Boras and said he is looking forward to signing soon.
“Absolutely,’’ Wells answered when asked about getting a deal done quickly before the Aug. 1 deadline. “Ready to get going.’’
The signing slot for where Wells, 21 next month, was picked is $2.493 million of the Yankees’ $3.520 million bonus pool.
While Wells, who was voted the Cape Cod League’s Outstanding Pro Prospect last summer, is ready to get going, he doesn’t know where that will take him immediately.
“Honestly, I have no idea. I haven’t received any information on what the plan is yet. It is all super new still. I haven’t received any information saying what I will be doing or where I am going,’’ said Wells, who grew up a Red Sox fan but admitted that ended Wednesday night. So, too, will his facial hair, which is against Yankees grooming policy.
With this year’s draft cut from 40 rounds to five, players who aren’t selected can be signed for $20,000 beginning Sunday. The Yankees didn’t have picks in the second round and fifth round on Thursday because they signed free agent Gerrit Cole to a nine-year deal worth $324 million.
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“There are going to be a lot of great players who don’t get drafted. My brother is even one of them,’’ Wells said of his brother Carson, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound center fielder at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas where Austin played. “He didn’t get to play his senior year. You never know what could have happened there. He could have been drafted by the Yankees, too. You never know.’’
Carson has verbally committed to the University of Southern California.
Austin’s calling card is the left-handed bat that produced a .357 average in 71 college games. However, there are questions about the 6-2, 220-pounder remaining behind the plate. Though he is working on improving as a catcher, if the Yankees believe moving him to another position will help his progression through the minors, so be it.
“I am continuing to improve every day even through these tough times we are going through. That is one of my main focuses and will continue to be one of my main focuses going forward, especially if I want to get through the minor leagues quickly and make an impact on the big-league club,’’ Wells said.
Two years ago, the Yankees took catchers Anthony Seigler (first round) and Josh Breaux (second round). So they have options behind the plate if they want to move Wells.
Left-handed hitting catchers are coveted and Wells’ goal is to stay at the position. However, he won’t be stubborn if getting to the big leagues quicker at another position is the avenue.
“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,’’ said Wells, who has played some outfield and first base. “Being a catcher is what I want to do, but wherever my bat gets me to the big leagues the quickest for sure.’’