As you can see in the image at the right, Ben Wells is a big right-handed pitcher. The Cubs drafted Wells in the 7th round in the 2010 Draft. Wells stands 6-3 and weighs 220 pounds. Wells was more highly thought of that your typical 7th rounder and signed for $530,000, which was the equivalent of late 2nd round money that year. He had committed to a junior college, but SEC schools were luring him away and was expected to not sign with an MLB team.
Despite being drafted in 2010, Wells entered the 2013 season with only 132 professional innings of work. He did not pitch after being drafted, which is not uncommon. He spent a half season in 2011 at extended spring training and then half a season at Boise. He dealt with elbow problems much of 2012 and only pitched 45 innings.
Prior to this season, the results had been very good considering his age, but there were also concerns. His strikeout rate was quite low, but he did walk very few batters and kept the ball on the ground. He was promoted to HIgh A at the start of the season anyway and once again the results were very good. But questions remain.
He struckout a very low 14.9% of batters this year and his walk rate actually grew to 8.6%. He's a groundball machine so can probably get away with fewer strikeouts than a lot of other pitchers, but that's low. Among qualified pitchers in the Florida State League, he had the 7th lowest strikeout percentage.
I've mentioned this throughout the last year in the comments, but Ben Wells is going to have to strikeout more batters than he has to thus far in his career.
Ben Wells pitched in the upper 80s in high school, but by the time of the draft he was sitting in the 90-94 range. He still throws the same sinking fastball and a pretty good slider from what I've read. Wells was ranked 24th in the Cubs organization after 2010 and 25th after 2011 by Baseball America. He was not in their top 30 this year after his injury-filled 2012 season. Prior to that season, Baseball America had this to say:
Wells was unknown to all but a few area scouts until shortly before the 2010 draft, when his fastball jumped about 5 mph and he threw a five-inning perfect game in the Arkansas 7-A high school championship game. The Cubs took him in the seventh round and signed him at the deadline for $530,000. Though he faced limited competition as an amateur, he survived against older hitters when he made his pro debut at Boise last summer. Wells' weapon of choice is a heavy sinker that helped him post a 3.8 groundout/airout ratio in 2011. He threw it mostly at 87-90 mph early in the season before sitting at 90-94 in August. His hard slider shows flashes of becoming a plus pitch and his changeup has a chance to be a solid third offering. While Wells has a soft body, he's athletic and repeats his delivery well, giving him good control. He has uncommon mound presence for a teenager, which will come in handy when he advances to low Class A in 2012.
I wouldn't be surprised to see him creep back into the top 30 this year, but I think some people will want to see an increase in that strikeout rate before they put him back. A solid season in AA could really boost him entering 2014.
Wells will move to AA Tennessee in 2014 and hopefully we'll see an improvement in that strikeout rate. He's got a big frame and a better fastball than you'd think for someone with such a low rate. It seems he should be striking out more batters, but so far it just hasn't worked.