By Rob Patrick
As is the case most years, Major League Baseball teams and many of their picks from the June Amateur draft went until the last day before coming to terms. Some go to literally the last minute before the midnight Eastern time deadline to get a deal done.
It wasn’t quite that drastic but it was the last day before Bryant pitcher Ben Wells and the Chicago Cubs forged an agreement.
But they got it done.
Wells, who will turn 18 on Sept. 10, was the seventh-round pick of the Cubs. He signed Monday evening for $530,000. As is standard with Major League contracts for players coming right after high school, the contract includes a commitment by the Cubs to pay for four years of college. But it also includes an unusual provision that guarantees that in 2013, Wells will be included on the Cubs’ 40-man roster. That means he’ll go to spring training with the Major League club that spring with a chance to make the 25-man roster.
“If you look all over the league, they’ve been signing several high school guys right and left, all over the place,” Wells noted. “Another guy that signed with Arkansas was a 12th-round guy. He signed for $800,000. Guys in the 16th, 17th, 20th rounds were signing for like $400,000. They’re trying to sign these guys out of high school.”
Asked if he was starting to get a little nervous about the prospects of signing by the deadline, Wells said, “Not too bad. They were starting to throw some numbers out there and I figured we were going to get it done.”
It’s not as though the 6-4 right-hander didn’t have other options. He had a full scholarship from the University of Arkansas set, contingent on his negotiations with the Cubs. The Hogs had out-recruited LSU and Ole Miss to get Wells to sign. He also had an open offer from Crowder Community College on the table.
As it is, he and his family will fly to Chicago to be introduced to his new employers in mid-September.
“In late September, I fly to Arizona and I play Instructional League there for about a month,” he related. “Then I come home for the winter.”
He was given the indication that, next spring, he will probably be assigned to the Boise Hawks, a Class A affiliate of the Cubs.
“It’s unbelievable,” Wells acknowledged. “I’m so excited. It’s something you work your whole life for and I’m getting to do it."
Wells came on during the second half of the high school season and led Bryant to its first State championship, capping off the run with two wins and a save in the State Tournament. His five-inning perfect game in the championship contest against Van Buren and the fact that his velocity improved to the point where he touched 95 on the radar gun caught a lot of attention from fans and scouts.
“They like my size and say I have a Major League build,” Wells said when asked what the scouts had said to him. “They like the fact that my fastball has some movement on it. A lot of them said I had good sink on it. And that’s what you’ve got to have in the Majors. You’ve got to have a fastball with sink on it to get groundballs. They see guys that throw 100 or 98 all the time but guys like Tim Hudson (of the Atlanta Braves) that throws 89 but they throw balls with a lot of movement, a lot of sink that they can’t hit.”
Wells completed his senior season with a 9-2 record and three saves. He posted a miniscule 1.20 earned run average with 113 strikeouts in 81 1/3 innings. He allowed just 53 hits.