The Script Has Flipped for the Yankees’ Catchers in 2024

Veteran Jose Trevino is surpassing expectations at the dish, outshining rookie Austin Wells in an unexpected twist for the Yankees' catchers.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JUNE 12: Jose Trevino #39 of the New York Yankees throws out Vinnie Pasquantino #9 of the Kansas City Royals out at first to win the game at Kauffman Stadium on June 12, 2024 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)

Entering the 2024 season, New York Yankees top catching prospect Austin Wells was poised to carry the offensive load for the backstops in The Bronx.

Meanwhile, veteran and Platinum Glove Award winner Jose Trevino was set to show Wells the way behind the dish and provide a familiar face for the pitching staff.

Yet, fast forward to mid-June and Trevino is leading the way with the bat, while both are playing phenomenally behind the plate.

Hard Luck for Austin Wells

Wells’ offensive start to 2024 can best be described as unlucky. He is hitting just .207 with a .615 OPS through 40 games played thus far. Trevino, who got off to a much hotter start with the bat, is currently posting a .272 batting average with six home runs in 44 games played.

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Although Wells’ numbers are certainly not great, he has dealt with some bad breaks in the box. Per Baseball Savant, out of 39 catchers with at least 100 plate appearances Wells currently ranks 38th in the difference between his wOBA and xwOBA, with a difference of -0.066.

Expected (x)wOBA is calculated using exit velocity, launch angle and, on certain types of batted balls, sprint speed to determine a player’s deserved offensive contributions per plate appearance.

Wells’ wOBA ranks 29th while his xwOBA is 10th out of that same group of catchers, proving just how “unlucky” his first full season in the majors has been. Hitters will inevitably have stretches when it feels like even when they’re squaring it up, they’re hitting it right at the defense. Unfortunately for Wells, he must be feeling an extreme version of that right now.

Wells is splitting time with Trevino, and therefore he’s not a qualified hitter, but if he were, his 11.1% walk rate and 39.8% launch angle sweet-spot percentage would both rank among the 20% of batters in the sport. Pair that with an avg. EV and hard-hit percentage close to league average, and his profile would typically result in one of the better-hitting catchers in the league.

A Hot Start for Jose Trevino

On the other hand, Trevino, who was expected to take on a lesser, veteran role this season, has put up some surprisingly strong offensive numbers. On the same list of 39 catchers mentioned before, Trevino ranks 13th in BA (.272) and 16th in wOBA (.324).

Known as a defense-first catcher, Trevino’s solid start at the plate has been a nice supplement to the juggernauts of Aaron Judge and Juan Soto in the Yankees lineup.

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His numbers certainly aren’t jumping off the charts – Trevino still isn’t comparable to the Adley Rustchmans and Will Smiths of the league – but they are career highs for him in nearly every category. His performance has been just what the Yankees needed out of the catcher position to start the year.

Strong Defense Behind the Plate

It would be wrong of me to discuss both Wells’ and Trevino’s offensive starts to the season without mentioning just how well they have played behind the plate.

The two catchers both have impressive defensive numbers. Trevino has posted a 7.0 Def (defensive runs above average, per FanGraphs), which ranks seventh amongst catchers. Wells ranks 17th with a 4.6 Def. The only other team with two catchers that rank as highly in Def is the Detroit Tigers (Carson Kelly and Jake Rogers).

This comes as no surprise for Trevino, who won the Platinum Glove Award in 2022, but it is a very promising sign for the Yankees that his defensive skills are wearing off on Wells.

As Trevino heads toward free agency this offseason, Brian Cashman and crew will presumably look to Austin Wells to anchor the backstop position in The Bronx for years to come.

Wells, currently sitting in the 89th percentile in framing and the 78th in Fielding Run Value (per Baseball Savant), has also developed a strong connection with the pitching staff; he is shaping up to be a very good major league catcher. Moreover, he will almost certainly begin hitting again with a little change in luck, considering his solid track record with the bat throughout the minors.

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Trevino has stepped up at the plate in the absence of Wells’ bat, which has definitely helped the Yankees avoid skipping a beat offensively in 2024.

For a team like the Yankees, a mashing, offense-first catcher is not what they need. Instead, as seen so far in 2024, an elite defender with an average bat will do just fine in that powerful lineup – and having two of them is even better.