Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Who is Randy David Wells?

Unlike fragile flower Bronson Arroyo, my hangovers only last a few hours, so it's back to work here at my usual standard of excellence if a few hours later than usual.

A few days ago I said I'd look into JP's recent pickup, Randy David Wells and do something along the lines of my profile of Buck Coats. As promised, here we go.

First question: is that "David" part a nickname?

Answer: no it is not.

The 25-year-old Cub farmhand and former blogger was selected 11th overall (like that matters) in the December Rule 5 draft, which means he has to be offered back to Chicago for a token amount if we don't keep him on the 25 man roster all year. One would think that if JP really liked this hulking right-hander's arm we could stash him as the 7th man in the bully, a job that requires only slightly more work than the Maytag repair man. Our pen is pretty deep, though, so it might be premature to assume he'll be going north with the big boys.

This is what JP had to saw about RD Wells (or R-Dub?) back in December:

He's a guy who can do both -- start or go in the 'pen," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "He gives us a little bit of depth. We'll give him a chance to come in and win a job. We've got some guys that do have options that we could send [to the Minors]."

Ok, sounds good. Everybody likes versatility, right? Hang on. Just under a week ago JP said Wells was "somewhat of a consideration" to be stretched out for starting duties along with Brian Wolfe and Kane Davis (who?). Not exactly a ringing endorsement. This is what Bastian said in today's mailbag:

Wells has pitched well this spring, evidenced by the five shutout innings he's turned in during Grapefruit League play. The only issue is that Wells' outings have all been late-inning appearances -- a time when the opposing teams tend to have mostly Minor Leaguers in the lineup. So take the results for what they're worth.

Gibbons has had nothing but good things to say about Wells, though, and the pitcher's chances of making the team certainly weren't hurt when Janssen was sidelined. Toronto has a lot of relief arms in the mix for only a couple of spots, so it'll be interesting to see how it plays out. Right now, Wells might be on the outside looking in.

That really doesn't clarify anything, does it?

Looking at Wells minor league numbers, there are definitely some promising signs, like a 3:1 K:BB ratio through his pro career and a K/9 IP rate of 9.5 in AAA last year. Nice, nice. He put up a stellar age 22 season mostly as a reliever in A+ ball, posting an ERA of 2.74 and great peripherals across the board. He was fantastic again the next year in AA, but slowed at AAA in late 2006 and 2007 (in the notoriously hitter friendly Pacific Coast League it should be noted). His hits, walks, and home runs per 9 were just a bit too high there, which probably convinced Cubbies brass to expose him over the off season.

But what stands out as odd is that Wells pitching line starts at age 20 in 2003 at the Rookie level. Did he drop out of college? Nope... And then I stumbled across it: he's a converted catcher! Cool! So there you have it, he's come to the craft of pitching a little later than normal (because he was a .147 hitter in the nether regions of the minors).

Returning now to a useful resource I frequently plagiarize from when I need info on Cubs prospects, CubsHub.com, we learn the following:

Randy Wells, the Cubs drafted him in 38th round in 2002 as a catcher. He sputtered at the beginning of his career offensively but showed a strong arm. So the Cubs converted him to a pitcher, since the switch Wells has flown through the system. He was lights out during the first half of the 2006 season at AA before getting challenged in AAA. This year [2007] at Iowa, he split time as a starter and a reliever, without a doubt he’s much more effective as a reliever with his sinking fastball and plus slider.

Sinker, nice. That should play well with our infield defence. But it doesn't appear that Wells is cut out for starting any more than Buck Coats is for a return to the infield. A saviour this man does not seem to be for a club now semi-concerned by the loss of starting depth that came with Casey Janssen's season-ending injury.

-- Johnny Was

No comments: