Austin Wells had a chance to begin his professional baseball career when he was selected by the New York Yankees in the 35th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball draft.
A catcher, Wells fell to that spot because of an elbow injury that concerned teams enough to pass on him. As a result, he decided to play college baseball at Arizona. That decision figures to pay off handily when the draft comes back around Wednesday and Thursday.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic that caused the cancellation of high school and college baseball seasons, the draft has been dropped from 40 to five rounds. That won’t likely matter to Wells, a 6-foot-2-inch, 220-pounder who is rated as the No. 21 prospect by Baseball America, No. 27 by MLB Pipeline and No. 44 by Fangraphs, which projects him as a late first- or early second-round pick.
“I’m so proud of him. He’ll be added to a long list of Gorman players drafted in the major leagues,” Gorman coach Gino DiMaria said.
In his short time at Arizona, all Wells did was hit. He posted an average of .357 in 71 career games with seven home runs, 74 RBIs and an OPS of 1.036. He was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and first-team freshman All-American in his only full season with the Wildcats.
Wells could remain at catcher, but he’s also played first base and has enough speed and athleticism to play in the outfield. He was not made available for interviews before the draft.
“I talked with Austin and his dad (Greg, who also played baseball at Arizona), and I hope they give him a shot behind the plate,” DiMaria said. “I don’t know if they consider him too big, but I go to MLB games and there are big boys behind the plate. He has options, so that’s huge. He’s very athletic for his size.”
While Wells’ future in baseball seems secure, it was not that way for several other prospects from around the valley.
One of those was Wells’ brother, Carson, who graduated from Gorman this spring and is among a handful of high-schoolers who might have been selected in a normal 40-round draft.
Some of the others in a similar predicament were Palo Verde pitcher Paulshawn Pasqualotto, shortstop Paul Myro IV, catcher Josiah Cromwick, pitcher Noah Carabajal and first baseman and designated hitter Jaden Agassi.
“I think two (Pasqualotto and CromwicK) would have had a hard decision,” Palo Verde coach Joe Hallead said. “Sometimes if you’re healthy and they throw some money at you, you’re going to take that, and they’ll pay for your college later.”
But because the signing bonuses for undrafted players have been capped at $20,000 this year, the decision on whether to sign and begin their professional career or play in college was an easy one. Agassi and Carson Wells are headed to Southern California, with Pasqualotto (California), Cromwick (Oregon) and Myro (Oregon State) joining them in the Pac-12. Carabajal has signed with Long Beach State.