CHICAGO — Las Vegas has already produced two of Major League baseball’s brightest current talents in Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant and Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper.
The next big thing may be on the way.
Austin Wells, a catcher and senior-to-be at Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High School, got a taste of Bryant’s current home as he played in last Saturday’s 10th Under Armour All-American Game at iconic Wrigley Field.
“It’s an awesome experience,” he said. “I’m just glad to be there in that environment.”
Some scouts say he already plays a complete all-around game at a challenging spot.
“I think it’s the most demanding position,” he said. “Because you always have to be aware of where everyone’s at, you have to know every single pitch and situation and know what to call. Because if you don’t call the right pitch you’re going to get smoked.”
Wells, who stands 6-foot, 2-inches and weighs 195 pounds, has played baseball as far back as he can remember.
“Since I could walk I’ve been swinging the bat and throwing the ball,” he said. “I like that it’s not about who’s the best athlete on the field, it’s about who’s got the most fundamentals, who’s got the skill and the knowledge of baseball.”
Wells, who was named to the American Family Insurance All-USA Second Team, was also Gatorade Nevada Player of the Year as a junior after batting .500 with eight home runs, 47 RBI and a .936 slugging percentage while helping Bishop Gorman to a 30-7 record.
“From a purely baseball talent stand point, Austin Wells was one of the best players that I saw all season,” said Mike O’Rourke, head coach at Bryant’s alma mater, Bonanza High, in the player of the year announcement. “He plays the game the right way on the field.”
Off the diamond Wells has maintained a 3.71 grade point average and is a volunteer assisting youth baseball programs.
He has verbally committed to attend the University of Arizona. Baseball America rates him among the top eight catchers nationally graduating from high school in 2018.
Wells isn’t limited to just working behind the plate.
The Gatorade award saluted Wells for his production as a first baseman, shortstop and designated hitter. In Chicago last Saturday he started and batted eighth for the National team as DH.
But catching is his first love.
“When I was younger, my dad said ‘why not put me at catcher,’ “ he said. “All the other positions I couldn’t stay focused out there.”
Wells said he worked hard in the off-season to improve and the efforts eventually paid off with numerous accolades and Under Armour All-Star selection.
“I think all of my game has improved a lot,” he said. “I really worked at a whole new level into the high school season and into the summer season.”
Wells wants to make similar progress in his final high school season and then at Arizona.
And five years from now, he hopes to be at the next level and advancing through a Major League organization.
“Hopefully I’ll be working my way thought the programs of any Major League team and play some baseball.”
If Wells makes it, he’ll be in some good company. Since the first game was played in 2008, 284 of the 323 draft eligible players have been picked in the major league Amateur Draft, including 83 first round picks.