The Rule 5 Draft is certainly a system that is far from fool proof. A team must gamble with losing a potential future star, while teams must also take the risk on these players, hoping they can pan out into stars, while they are forced to stay in the Major Leagues for a whole season (unless they’re sent back to their original team, of course).
There have been a plethora of amazing players who started their career as Rule 5 guys. I’m sure you all remember Shane Victorino, who was selected by the Phillies in the 2004 draft, then eventually became a World Series starting outfielder.
Or what about pitching sensation, Johan Santana? He was taken in the 1999 Rule 5 Draft by the Florida Marlins, who immediately sent him to Minnesota, where he had a near Hall of Fame career. And we know no one can forget Paul Blair, who became arguably the best Rule 5 selection of all time.
The Orioles are no stranger to the Rule 5 Draft. Some of our favorite players have surfaced that way, with names like Blair, Ryan Flaherty, and Anthony Santander. In the 2021 Rule 5 Draft, the Orioles selected two pitchers, Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells. Sceroler did not pan out as planned, and he was sent back to his original team, the Cincinnati Reds.
However, Tyler Wells has proved over his first three months on a Major League squad that he deserves to be here. And boy, did the Orioles get lucky with this one.
Wells was drafted in the 15th round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Minnesota Twins. Not usually do you see a 15th round pick and think they could become a star player, especially when said player is picked in the Rule 5 Draft after never throwing above Double-A in his career.
Well, some things happen.
Tyler Wells has seen a lot of playing time this season, all out of the bullpen. To start the year, we saw him a lot in low leverage situations, where he could just get some work in, regardless of the outcome. As to be expected, the kid got beat up a little in April, giving up seven runs in 9.2 innings. The 11 strikeouts in this month, however, were a promising sign.
The month of May began an upward trend for Wells, and fans began to take notice. In seven appearances in May, six of those seven appearances came against top tier offenses; twice against the Red Sox and once against the Yankees, Mets, and Rays. Over that month, he allowed six runs and struck out 18, both better numbers than in April with one more outing under his belt.
Going into June, Wells was sitting on an ERA that was just under five. Not great, but serviceable for a Rule 5 guy. But Wells didn’t think this was good enough.
During a month where the Orioles as a whole have been quite abysmal, Wells has been a shining light at the end of the tunnel. In the middle of the hype around the return of Hunter Harvey, Wells showed fans he has more to offer than your usual Rule 5 pick.
In June alone, Wells has appeared in 10 games. Nine of those outings were scoreless appearances. The only two runs he’s given up this month came against the Blue Jays on June 19. Also, he has struck out at least one batter in every outing and struck out as many as three in one of his two-inning outings this month.
Not only has Wells pitched out of his mind this month, he has done so with fantastic command of his fastball in high leverage situations. Three of those outings came in games decided by less than three runs, where he kept the score as it was. Not to mention, he did this against teams like the Astros, Mets, and Blue Jays.
On June 28 against the Astros, Wells had maybe his biggest outing of the year. With the game tied in the bottom of the seventh and bases loaded, Wells came on to strike out two consecutive batters to end the inning. The Orioles eventually won that game 9-7, partially thanks to Well’s outing.
When you look deeper into this kid, you see some fantastic numbers. So far in 2021, Wells is pitching to a 32% strikeout rate and a .211 batting average against. To add to that, opposing hitters are only barreling up 11% of his pitches. In other words, he’s either striking you out, or you’re hitting a weak ground ball somewhere. Most astoundingly, he has stranded 76% of base runners, further proving his poise in high leverage situations.
Wells features a 96+ mph fastball that has been virtually unhittable. His fastball is in the top 20 percent of the league, as well as his whiff rate. Also in the 85th percentile or in strikeout rate, chase rate, and walk rate, Wells has proved he is no easy task for any hitter in this league and is a tougher opponent than a good sum of the arms across the league.
In the coming months of this season, we will see plenty more of Tyler Wells. Expect to see him enter in even more tough situations, and by our predictions, he will continue to embarrass opponents on his way to becoming an absolute steal for Mike Elias and the Orioles.
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