Randy Wells Profile
Randy Wells was drafted by the Cubs in 2002, a 38th round pick from Southwestern Illinois Community College. Originally a catcher, he converted to pitching late in 2003, then posted a 4.43 ERA with a 121/40 K/BB in 108 innings for Class A Lansing in 2004. He had a decent fastball and usually threw strikes, but needed refinement with his secondary pitches, rating as a Grade C prospect at that point and not making the '05 book.
He took a big step forward in 2005, going 10-2, 2.74 with a 106/22 K/BB ratio in 99 innings for Daytona in the Florida State League, allowing 93 hits. His velocity dipped a bit into the mid-to-upper-80s, but his curveball and changeup improved, and his control was very good. I gave him a Grade C in the 2006 book, noting that he didn't receive much attention but that he could end up as a "back end of the pitching staff guy" if he continued to progress.
Wells split 2006 between Double-A West Tennessee (1.56 ERA, 56/13 K/BB in 63 innings, 45 hits) and Triple-A Iowa (4.96 ERA, 59/23 K/BB in 69 innings but 87 hits allowed). I saw him pitch in Triple-A and he got lit up pretty bad, struggling with his location and generally not looking very impressive. I still had him as a Grade C and left him out of the 2007 book.
Wells returned to Iowa in '07 and was used as a swingman, posting a 4.52 ERA with a 101/41 K/BB in 96 innings, 100 hits allowed, making nine starts and 31 relief outings. I saw him pitch twice that year, once he was throwing just 85-87 MPH but another time he was throwing 90-94. Both times his control was spotty, but he had good rotation on his breaking ball. The Blue Jays picked him up in the Rule 5 draft that fall, and I wrote that if he could improve his control, "he could take a step forward," giving him another Grade C.
The Blue Jays got him into one major league game in '08, then shipped him back to the Cubs, who sent him back to Iowa again. He went 10-4, 4.02 with a 102/34 K/BB in 119 innings, 127 hits allowed. I didn't put him in the book this year, thinking that he'd settled in as a useful Triple-A swingman, but not someone to get really excited about.
I should have paid closer attention. His K/BB and K/IP marks were pretty solid last year, and while he was hittable, he was effective overall for the PCL. This year, he is 6-4, 3.10 with a 59/19 K/BB in 14 starts for the Chicago Cubs, with 82 hits allowed. Pitch-fx shows him with an 87-93 MPH fastball, mixing in a slider and changeup, with a very consistent release point. His command has been decent, and in general he is adapting very well to major league conditions.
Well is one of the surprises of the major league season, but looking back at his record, you can see hints that he could do this. His K/IP ratio was usually good, and he's succeeded in sharpening the command that gave him trouble at times. It is also important to remember that he had no pitching experience before 2003, giving him a fresh, low mileage arm but also giving him a lot to learn about his craft. With that in mind, his development has been pretty impressive actually.
Going forward, Wells should be/could be a solid inning-eater type starter, assuming good health and continued fine command. He's a great example of a Grade C pitching prospect who turned into something useful despite being under the radar.