Letters of Intent
By Leah Smith
Canadian Baseball Network
DUNEDIN, Fla. – An increased off-season conditioning program was the key to success for Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Nick Wells.
The 19-year old prospect added seven miles per hour to his fastball in between his junior and senior years of high school.
A shift in focus to weightlifting led to a dramatic increase in his pitch speed.
“I had a big jump in my velocity,” said Wells, sitting at a picnic table in the shade at the Bobby Mattick Complex, the Blue Jays minor league training facility. “Started lifting, started getting stronger and long tossing, got a good program and it just worked out for me.”
It was not until his junior year that Wells focused exclusively on pitching, having played all over the field during his first two years of high school. To start his senior year, he shocked all of his coaches with his newfound velocity and became a star player for Battlefield High School in Haymarket, Va.
During that season he pitched 53 innings, with 102 strikeouts, six complete games, two no-hitters, and allowed only eight runs for a 1.06 earned run average.
“High school coaches weren’t expecting it at all because I was around 83 (mph) my junior year,” said Wells. “I told the coach ‘yeah, I’m hitting 90 today’ and he was like ‘ah sure’, so I went out and the first one they had a gun on me I was at around 94.”
These numbers allowed him to go straight from playing high school into playing pro.
If Wells had not signed with the Blue Jays, he had committed to play for the College of Charleston in South Carolina. Instead, Toronto took him 83rd overall in the 2014 draft and offered him exactly what he wanted.
“Going from high school to this is a world of difference, in high school I was off doing my own thing because I was only pitching, I didn’t field so when they were fielding, I was off working with my weighted balls or something,” said Wells. “Here we are always doing something pitchers are always doing something, so I mean it’s more like getting your feet wet.”
In his first season with the rookie-class Gulf Coast Blue Jays in 2014, he went 1-3 with a 5.71 ERA over 34 2é3 innings pitching in 11 games.
Going from the short high school season of 20 games to the gruelling minor league schedule was a difficult adjustment. However, his high school conditioning program was a perfect complement to what he would be doing with the Blue Jays.
“I lifted with a wrestler, he goes to Virginia Tech now … crazy, crazy wrestlers are nuts in the weight room,” said Wells. “And then I did my throwing with a place out in Tyson’s Corner, Va., and they’d do the same stuff that Jamie Evans does and he is our weighted ball guy, so I came in here basically coming from what I came from already.”