LA Angels News

How Bad Is Vernon Wells?

By MJ Lloyd

Vernon Wells might be enjoying a pleasant spring (.276/.364/.448) but let’s not crack the champagne to celebrate his return from the dead just yet. Wells posted one of the worst seasons by an everyday player in recent memory hitting .218/.248/.412 last year with the Angels. And the fine folks at ESPN reminded Angels fans about that on Tuesday when they rolled out their Top 500 Players for 2012. In the first installment (read 401-500), Wells hung on to the list by a thread at 494.

Four. Hundred. And. Ninety. Freaking. Four.

But at least the Angels only owe him $63 million over the next three years. If it’s any consolation, I hear former Angels GM Tony Reagins is really assistant managing the crap out of that In N Out Burger. While spring stats are mainly meaningless, Wells hasn’t looked like a lost cause. So he can’t be that bad, right? Maybe.

Here’s the gist of the exercise…

"To compile a top-500 ranking, 34 ESPN experts started with a list of the top 600 players projected to play in the majors in 2012. Using a 0-to-10 scale, they evaluated only the quality of each player for the 2012 season. Players who are expected to miss the 2012 with an injury, like Victor Martinez, were not included. Players’ ages were listed by what their in-season age will be as of July 1, 2012."

Naturally, I turned to one of the ESPN experts to see if Wells is really that bad. The wise, earringed, fedora wearing (and birthday boy on Tuesday) Baseball Prospectus-er, Kevin Goldstein, shared the bad news…

Yikes. The projections seem to agree. Only Bill James has Wells OBP-ing over .300 in 2012. And at .311, we’re not talking about a game changer. At least not in a positive way. His 3.8% walk rate in 2011 is a concern. Stephen Hawking did more walking last year than Vernon Wells. *submits that joke to The Big Bang Theory, cashes check, hangs head in shame* But is Wells really, really that bad? He did just hit 31 home runs and .273/.331/.515 as recently as 2010.

Yes, he is. Frankly, I’m getting tired of telling you this over and over. I’m not sure if Reagins knew what Fangraphs was at the time of the Wells disaster trade but a cursory glance at splits might have saved his job/self-esteem. In Wells’ resurgent 2010 season, he hit 21 home runs and .320/.363/.627 at his hitter friendly home park in Toronto. On the road, Wells hit 10 homers with a .224/.299/.400 line. So after moving him to a more pitcher friendly home park with two other pitcher friendly parks in the division, why should we be surprised Wells was awful in 2011?

I don’t know what “it” is, but Vernon Wells lost “it.” Is there hope? Sure. Wells did work with hitting instructor extraordinaire, Rudy Jaramillo, in the offseason. Maybe Rudy was inspirational. Maybe he had some magic beans. Maybe he gave Mike Trout his spring training flu.

Either way, Angels fans can look forward to Vernon Wells manning the outfield to start the season. The 494th best player in baseball.