By Contributing Writer: Nick Stevens
The first half of the minor league season will be coming to a close in the next two weeks and one name within the Baltimore Orioles’ organization has started to rise above the rest, LHP Alex Wells. Wells, a 20-year-old international signing out of Australia, could end up being the top pitcher in all of the Orioles’ farm system through the first half of the year.
Photo: Patrick Cavey
I wrote a piece on Wells on April 28th highlighting his fast start to the year for the Delmarva Shorebirds. The story on Alex Wells since then has only gotten better. Wells was just named to the South Atlantic League’s North Division all-star roster. That game will be played Tuesday, June 20th at Sprint Communications Park in Columbia, South Carolina.
Wells is currently 4-3 on the year with a 1.99 ERA in 11 starts for the Shorebirds. Entering his last start on June 7th against the West Virginia Power, Wells had not given up a run in 17 innings of work. He did give up eight runs on May 26th against the Lakewood Blue Claws, but all eight were unearned due to five Shorebirds’ errors.
Wells has improved in nearly every statistical category from last season’s MVP year with the Aberdeen Ironbirds. Currently, he is averaging 5.3 innings per start (4.8 in 2016), walking just 1.23 batters/9 innings (1.29 in 2016), has stranded 75% of runners who reach base (72.4% in 2016), and inducing ground balls on 50% of the balls put in play (43.8% in 2016). The higher percentage of ground balls has been crucial for Wells’ success as he has seen his BABIP fall to .256 on the year. For reference, that would qualify for 14th best in MLB.
While opposing batters are hitting just .229 against Wells this season, he has allowed seven home runs in 58.2 innings of work, which comes out to just slightly over one per game. The South Atlantic League is an extremely difficult league to navigate and has its fair share of power hitters, so I’m not overly concerned with this particular stat yet.
It is well documented that the Orioles invest very minimally into the international market, but they may have found quite the gem down under. Of his first 11 starts, Wells has earned a quality start in seven of them. What impresses me the most is what Wells does after he hits a bump in the road. Below are his stat lines from two of his worst performances of the season, followed by his stat line from his very next start:
4/10 @ Greensboro: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 HR allowed, earned the loss.
4/15 vs Hagerstown: 6 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K’s, winning decision.
5/15 vs Greenville: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 HR allowed
5/21 @ Greensboro: 6 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K’s.
So, what will Alex Wells do in his next start after giving up seven hits, three earned runs, and two home runs in his last outing? I suggest getting to Delmarva and seeing for yourself, but if you can’t, stay connected to @BabyBirdland, @CoachNick_14, and @CABoemmelJR for updates.