Every time 6-foot-5 Battlefield left-handed pitcher Nick Wells stepped on the mound this season, it was a spectacle. He has long been on Major League Baseball scouts’ radar because of the combination of his skills and frame, and his stock continued to improve during his dominant senior season.
The three-day draft begins Thursday night with the first two rounds. As Baseball America’s No. 119 prospect Wells is expected to be taken early in Friday proceedings, when rounds three through 10 take place. The national magazine lists Wells as the sixth-best prospect in Virginia and the top left-hander in the state.
Wells was nearly untouchable this season, and in his final start he struck out 14 batters in a complete-game 4-0 win over South County. In 53 innings pitched, he had 102 strikeouts, six complete games and two no-hitters while allowing eight earned runs for a 1.06 ERA.
In his first start of the season, March 31 against Woodbridge, 50 scouts were in the stands. Afterward, there was a steady flow of 20-25 scouts at each of his starts for the Bobcats.
Wells has added seven mph on his fastball since last spring through a grueling weight program with Battlefield wreslter Justus Weaver. Weaver is signed to wrestle at Virginia Tech next year at a projected 157 pounds.
“You have to work hard to get where you want to be,” said Wells, a College of Charleston signee who will have to decide between college and pro ball. “People said if I work hard, all this could happen. There were days I didn’t want to come out to lift, but Justus Weaver has done a number for me.”
Weaver and Wells spent the summer, fall and winter working out together in a barn in Gainesville that belongs to friends of the Wells family. The barn holds a weight room, and Wells said it felt like 100 degrees inside when the duo started the regimen in the summer. As it got progressively colder, they kept working.
In the summer, Wells lifted seven times a week and worked out at the Research and Development Baseball Academy four times a week
In the fall, scouts took notice of Wells at the Perfect Game WWBA World Championship, where he touched 89 mph. The following week at the South Atlantic Border Battle at the University of North Carolina, about 20 scouts saw him again.
At UNC, an adviser told Wells interest in him was soon to heat up, but Wells didn’t believe it. By December, he was receiving at least five questionnaires a week from MLB teams.
“I didn’t know it would get like this,” Wells said. “I thought it was two flukes, and it turned out that they really liked me.
When the winter hit, his fastball went from 83-86 to 90-93 consistently, his curveball had become sharper, and he gained more command on his change-up. Still, he says his change-up needs more work.
Wells hasn’t always been taller than most of his classmates. His mother still has the U14 Virginia Sabres travel ball team photo, in which he was one of the shortest kids. But in the ninth grade, he reached 6 feet, and he has kept growing and might not be finished.
Over the next couple weeks, Wells will be faced with a significant decision.
College of Charleston advanced to an NCAA super regional and resume play Saturday against Texas Tech, and while Wells has been in constant contact with Cougars Coach Monte Lee, he said Lee has not attempted to sway him.
“He’s been great,” Wells said. “ He said, ‘If you get the money you want, I’m not going to hold you back.’ He’s not pushing me either way. He’s been great about it.”
After Wells’s name is called, he’s unsure whether he will sign a pro contract. For now, he’s dealing with the realization his high school career is over after the Bobcats lost to McLean in a Virginia 6A North quarterfinal on Monday.
“There isn’t a definite number,” Wells said. “If the money comes in and looks good, I’ll take it. But right now I’m still headed down to College of Charleston.”
Regarding how highly Wells could get drafted, MLB.com senior writer Jim Callis said, “A lot of it depends on signability with high school guys. . . . If he’s touching 93, you can see that in the third to fifth round.”