Twins Prospect Spotlight Series: Lachlan Wells
Image courtesy of Photo by Seth Stohs, Twins DailyRanking prospects is a difficult task and everyone has a bit of a different methodology. This series isn’t meant to be critical of any of the other lists out there, it’s all about presenting a positive case for the featured player. We’re starting at the bottom of my list and working up from there. Here’s a look at what’s on deck:
Range 41-50 spotlight: Zander Wiel, No. 48
Range 31-40 spotlight: Tom Hackimer, No. 36
Range 21-30 spotlight: Lachlan Wells, No. 22
Range 11-20 spotlight: Coming Dec. 12
Range 1-10 spotlight: Coming Dec. 19
While the first couple of players I’ve highlighted in this series were drafted out of college and have been a little old for their level, the exact opposite is true of Wells. Signed out of Australia in 2014, Wells has been on an aggressive path. He faced older hitters 91.2 percent of the time last season and was three years younger than the average player in his league. At just 20-years-old, he was the youngest player to pitch for the Miracle and the third youngest in the Florida State League to throw at least 80 innings. Here’s the list of pitchers who logged at least 80 innings for Fort Myers in their age 20 season since 2010:
2017: Lachlan Wells, 81.1 IP
2015 Kohl Stewart, 129.1 IP
2014: Jose Berrios, 96.0 IP
After turning heads by posting a 1.77 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 7.9 K/9 with Cedar Rapids in 2016, Wells had a 3.98 ERA for Fort Myers. While he didn’t have as easy a time carving through FSL lineups despite the notoriously pitcher-friendly atmosphere, there are still plenty of reasons to be excited about Wells’ future. He still had a 1.17 WHIP and 3.58 K:BB ratio. Those marks ranked 11th and 16th, respectively, among the 48 pitchers with at least 80 IP in the FSL last season. So what’s with the much uglier ERA? Giving up a .276/.328/.496 line (.824 OPS) with runners on certainly didn’t help.
Wells’ 2017 got off to an exciting start, as he was able to represent his home country during the World Baseball Classic. On March 8, he pitched 2.0 innings perfect innings out of the bullpen with two strikeouts for Australia against Japan in front of more than 41,000 fans in the Tokyo Dome. One of the hitters he struck out, Yoshi Tsutsugo, led the NPB with 44 home runs in 2016 and was eventually named the WBC Pool B Most Valuable Player.
Wells also got off to an excellent start with Fort Myers. In his first three games, he only gave up one run over 14.0 innings (0.64 ERA) with 17 strikeouts and just one walk. On May 17 he pitched a nine-inning complete game, throwing just 90 pitches, a pretty impressive feat considering only five other pitchers had a nine-inning complete game in the FSL last season. Unfortunately, Wells missed all of July and most of August with an elbow flexor muscle strain, but he still established a new career high of 85.1 innings (he made a 4.0 inning rehab appearance in the GCL). He also managed to end 2017 on a high note, throwing 5.0 shutout innings with seven strikeouts in his final start.
Over the past three seasons, Wells has pitched 204.0 innings to the tune of a 2.74 ERA, 8.2 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. I honestly feel like his prospect stock was suppressed by some outlets last year because his online profiles all listed him as only standing 5-foot-8 for so long. Almost any write-ups I could find that year made reference to how small he was. He’s still not the biggest guy, but those profiles have since all been updated to 6-foot-1. Still, his relatively unimpressive stat line in the FSL combined with an influx of talent into the system from both the draft and trades will keep him from shooting up most rankings.
Along with the WBC, Wells has had the honor of representing his country on a few other occasions. He was teammates with Lewis Thorpe at the 2013 18U World Cup in Taiwan. Lachlan has a twin brother, Alex, who was named the Orioles’ Minor League Player of the Year for 2017 after posting a 2.38 ERA and 0.91 WHIP over 140.0 innings, though he was playing a step below Lachlan in the South Atlantic League. It has to be somewhat beneficial to have not only a large group of Australian pitchers as teammates in the Twins system, but also a sibling going through the same process of trying to fight through the minor leagues.
Per Baseball America, Wells was already able to occasionally touch 90 mph when he signed back in 2014. In a piece for BA in April 2016, Phil Miller reported Wells sits in the low 90s comfortably, but his best pitches are his curveball and changeup. I typically like to lean on the numbers, but there’s something about Wells’ delivery that I like.
He starts out slow and smooth and then everything speeds up, especially with his upper body, and his head even does a subtle jerk, almost like you’d see from max-effort little league pitchers. Maybe that’s not ideal mechanics, but the action seems to create especially good deception for his off-speed offerings. Everything looks like it’s coming in hard. Again, I don’t pretend to have an eye for scouting that kind of stuff, but below is a little bit of video from YouTube of his rehab appearance with the GCL Twins. You can kinda see what I’m talking about in the parts that were shot from the first-base side (starting around the 1:00 mark).
The lack of workload is a concern, but it’s worth noting that while Wells’ innings only increased 19.6 percent from 2016 to ’17, his total pitches thrown increased by 26.2 percent. Only time will tell if Wells can make it as a starter, but if he’s forced to the bullpen at some point the fact he’s a lefty helps. With a three-pitch mix and especially strong secondary options, he seems like a safe bet to continue to progress. There’s obviously no guarantee he see advances in his fastball, but if anything it’s only going tick up and he already has very good control.
For more on Lachlan Wells and about 170 other Twins minor leaguers, be sure to pick up a copy of the 2018 Twins Prospect Handbook, which will be available later this winter.
- Cory Engelhardt, bluechipper and MN_ExPat like this