Baltimore Orioles pitching prospect Alex Wells is wrapping up his fourth impressive season in the organization.
It’s hard not to love Baltimore Orioles left-handed pitching prospect Alex Wells. From his Australian accent to his big glasses, Wells looks more like someone trying to get a job on Sig Mejdal’s analytics team when not in his Bowie Baysox uniform, but on the mound, he’s been one of the top pitchers in the Eastern League, armed with a smooth delivery and big-league potential.
At just 22 years of age, the Australian-born pitcher took a major step in 2019, trading in his Frederick Keys jersey for Baysox gear as he made the jump from the High-A Carolina League to Double-A. Making this jump is one of the more difficult transitions to make for a minor leaguer, if not the hardest. With the 2019 season wrapping up in around three weeks, it’s safe to say Wells passed his 2019 test with flying colors.
The 2017 Baltimore Orioles Minor League Pitcher of the Year, a 2018 MLB Futures Game participant, and an All-Star in each of his four seasons in the professional ranks, Alex Wells continues to take control of hitters as he moves up the organizational ladder.
A strike-thrower with impeccable command on the mound, Wells doesn’t over-power his opponents, but instead relies on that command and his big-league quality curveball and changeup to mix up speeds and keep hitters off-balance. While the fastball is an upper-80’s/low-90’s offering, his big curveball is a low-70’s/high-60’s offering which produces a lot of weak contact and keeps the ball in the yard. In a start earlier this year, Bowie Baysox play-by-play man Adam Pohl commented that Wells loves throwing his curveball and when you watch Wells pitch, you quickly see the confidence he has in the offering.
Wells isn’t a pronounced groundball pitcher, yet he’s been able to limit the long ball throughout his career. In 116.2 Double-A innings this season, Wells has allowed just six home runs, two of those coming in his start against the Richmond Flying Squirrels on Tuesday night (including San Francisco Giants prized prospect Joey Bart‘s first Double-A home run). But will his early dominance translate to major league production?
Will Alex Wells find himself pitching for the Baltimore Orioles next season?
Here’s a quick look at some of the numbers Wells as put up since signing with the Orioles as an international free agent ahead of the 2016 season.
2016 (Low-A Aberdeen Ironbirds): 4-5, 2.15 ERA, 62.2 IP, 50 K, 9 BB, .216 average against, 0.91 WHIP
2017 (Full season A-ball Delmarva Shorebirds): 11-5, 2.38 ERA, 140 IP, 113 K, 10 BB, .222 BAA, 0.91 WHIP
2018 (High-A Frederick Keys): 7-8, 3.47 ERA, 135 IP, 101 K, 33 BB, .270 BAA, 1.30 WHIP.
His struggles with the Frederick Keys led to much of the talk surrounding Wells to cool off a bit heading into 2019. His strikeout rate fell, the walk rate exploded, and hitters tagged him often. But since making the jump to Double-A, Wells has put his 2018 struggles behind him and has flourished with the Baysox.
With just a few more starts left to make this year, Wells is 8-3 with a 2.31 ERA, owning an 89/21 K/BB ratio while limiting opponents to a .228 average. He has passed his 2019 test and isn’t far away from making his major league debut now. What’s next for him?
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I expect Wells to be with the Orioles in spring training for a bit to work with the big league club and see a few innings here and there before heading back to minor league camp and beginning 2020 in Triple-A with the Norfolk Tides. The Orioles have been slow to move their prospects this season, even guys like Ryan Mountcastle and Grayson Rodriguez who have completely dominated their competition, which should pay dividends for these young top prospects. Remember, the Orioles have actual plans in place for player development now, something this franchise has failed with over the years.
With some success in Triple-A, don’t be shocked when Wells makes his major league debut later in 2020, likely in a bullpen role. I’m a huge fan of having pitchers like Wells start their careers out of the bullpen in low-leverage situations to get their feet wet and gain confidence. Ultimately, that could be where he finds the most success as a big leaguer. Using Wells in shorter stints with a fastball a tick or two higher would only help his curveball and changeup play up a bit more against major league hitters.
Wells may find himself on the backend of many Orioles Top 30 prospect list, or not on them at all, yet he is still a pitcher worth following closely and someone capable of carving his niche in the major leagues.