Tyler Wells has a chance to be the Orioles' closer in 2022 - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Tyler Wells has a chance to be the Orioles’ closer in 2022

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Early in the 2021 season, Oriole fans were complaining about the loss of right-handed reliever Zach Pop in the Rule 5 draft. Pop was one of five players the Orioles obtained from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Manny Machado in July 2018. Infielder Rylan Bannon, outfielder Yusniel Diaz and starter Dean Kremer remain in the organization while infielder Breyvic Valera has gone.

Pop, who had Tommy John surgery in 2019, and right-hander Gray Fenter were taken in December 2020 draft. Fenter, who was selected by the Chicago Cubs, was returned to the Orioles late in spring training while Pop made the Miami Marlins.

The Arizona Diamondbacks chose Pop, then dealt him to the Marlins.

Pop was 1-0 with a 4.12 ERA in 50 games for the Marlins. Now that he has stayed with Miami for the entire season, he can be optioned to the minor leagues.

In hindsight, maybe the Orioles wish they had kept Pop, but it appears they got an even better Rule 5 draft pick: Tyler Wells.

Wells was the Orioles’ second selection in the Rule 5 draft. Right-hander Mac Sceroler was picked fifth overall, one slot behind reliever Garrett Whitlock, who was taken by the Boston Red Sox from the New York Yankees, and just ahead of Pop.

Whitlock was a true find. He was 8-4 with a 1.96 ERA and two saves. Whitlock pitched 73 1/3 innings in 46 games and could get some consideration in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Detroit picked outfielder Akil Baddoo just before Whitlock, and the Silver Spring native hit .250 with 13 home runs, 55 RBIs and a .755 OPS in 124 games for the Tigers.

Wells was 2-3 with a 4.11 ERA and four saves in 57 innings in 44 games. He had two stints on the 10-day injured list, a right wrist injury in July and right shoulder discomfort in late September, which ended his season.


When the Orioles gather for spring training on February 15th in Sarasota, Florida, Wells should have a shot at being the team’s closer for the 2022 season.

He pitched in the ninth inning more than in any other inning and, although his 4.02 ERA wasn’t spectacular, he held opponents to a .190 batting average. Wells allowed just one home run and three walks in 62 plate appearances in the ninth. His best inning was the seventh when opponents batted just .116 (5-for-43) against him.

Wells finished April with a 6.52 ERA. After a scoreless ninth inning in an 11-3 win at Fenway Park on April 4th, Wells was scored upon in his next five outings, and he finished May allowing runs in three straight games.

It wasn’t until June that Wells, who entered the month with a 5.48 ERA, began to earn the trust of manager Brandon Hyde. After his debut, Wells appeared in 12 straight losses. But. on June 2nd, the game after the Orioles broke their 14-game losing streak, he got to pitch meaningful innings.

Wells threw three shutout innings against Minnesota, his longest stint of the year, allowing just one hit, and picked up the win.

In June, Wells gave up just two runs on nine hits in 14 1/3 innings. Both of those runs came on June 19th against Toronto.

Wells went 24 days without an appearance-from July 19th-August 12th and picked up his first two saves in September. His worst outing came in the first game of a doubleheader against Toronto on September 11th when he allowed four runs in 1 1/3 innings in an ugly 11-10 loss.

He showed Hyde enough that he felt confident in using him, something few other relievers did. Although there was some speculation early in the season about using Wells as a starter, that stopped when he began getting late-inning opportunities.

Sceroler, the Orioles’ other Rule 5 choice, was returned to Cincinnati on June 26th after five appearances. He allowed 12 earned runs on 15 hits for a 14.09 ERA and missed nearly two months because of right shoulder tendinitis.

The Orioles have had success in the Rule 5 draft, taking outfielder Anthony Santander in December 2017 even though he’d never played above High-A.

Infielder Richie Martin, who was the first choice of the 2018 Rule 5, stayed with the Orioles through the 2019 season, though he has played just 37 games since then because of a pair of wrist injuries.

On December 8th, the Orioles will again have the first pick in the Rule 5 draft. In each of executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias’ first three drafts, he has taken two players. Martin and Wells are the only two still with the club.

The Orioles have taken at least one player in the Rule 5 draft in each year since 2005. It’s a given they’ll make at least one selection, and the guess here is that they’ll again choose two.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB




  1. HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

    November 2, 2021 at 7:42 am

    I guess Pop wasn’t protected due to his recent TJ surgery and Elias thought he wouldn’t be selected, which is odd IMO because Elias selected T Wells who had TJ surgery around the same time as Pop. Also hypothesizing that Elias thought Valdez would become a trade chip, so he was kept on the 40 man roster while Pop was not.

    Unless Wells’ TJ surgery is a concern regarding him being used as a starter, I would love to see him looked at in that role. Lopez might be just as good as Wells in the 9th IMO and Wells’ minor league stats as a starter have me positively excited about his potential as a starter! That’s right! Positively Excited!

    Almost forgot – Go Braves!

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2021 at 8:28 am

      One of the interesting things about last year’s Rule 5 draft was the large number of players that were kept by the team that drafted them, Joe.

      I believe 14 of 18 were still with the team that drafted them on Opening Day, a large number. I think Elias thought Pop, if drafted, wouldn’t be returned as Fenter was.

      The Orioles have lots of starter candidates from within the organization now, but not many bullpen arms, so I think Wells stays in the pen—for now.

  2. Orial

    November 2, 2021 at 8:16 am

    Wells has the demeanor but injuries and his “pitching to contact” tendencies are a little concerning(lotta deep fly balls). Skies the ceiling though. Unless the O’s find an infield gem on Dec. 8th I expect more pitchers to rotate through in the Rule 5 draft. For once I can officially say/feel that a Rule 5 player or 2 won’t be obstructing progress from existing minor leaguers–this team has more than a few openings to fill.

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    November 2, 2021 at 9:24 am

    I don’t know about Wells as a closer. Aren’t we setting the bar a bit low lately? We need to look outside the organization for some arms. Time to spend a little cake on the staff, don’t ya think?

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2021 at 9:51 am

      Ken, I think a couple of veterans who can work middle innings might be the best investment they can make.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      November 2, 2021 at 2:45 pm

      Good point Rich. Frankly, I’m just hoping that we actually need a closer next year.

  4. Orioles20

    November 2, 2021 at 10:39 am

    Wells has the stuff to be closer but we all I know Hyde will not use a de facto closer and will use the hot hand. Which never works. Relievers need roles and Hyde is unwilling to give them roles. This is the same guy that made Valdez closer and we all saw how that worked out.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2021 at 10:55 am

      It’s hard to have roles on losing teams. If you used a closer in just traditional closing roles on bad teams, they wouldn’t have enough work.

      • Orioles20

        November 2, 2021 at 11:14 am

        I get that but when winning a game try to make guys comfortable by giving them roles

  5. Buzz1979

    November 2, 2021 at 11:07 am

    Still a mystery why they protected Eschelman over Pop! Things that make you go hmmmm!

    • ClayDal

      November 2, 2021 at 11:12 am

      They didn’t protect Eshelman. He was designated for assignment November 25, 2020 and became a free agent December 2, 2020. Orioles signed him as a minor league free agent January 18, 2021. So Eshelman had nothing to do with Pop

  6. Buzz1979

    November 2, 2021 at 11:42 am

    Yes they did, he was on the 40 man on Dec 5 when the draft was held, had EVERYTHING to do with Pop!

    • ClayDal

      November 2, 2021 at 11:49 am

      No we wasn’t. According to the MLB WEBSITE, he was designated for assignment November 25th to make room for Chris Shaw who was claimed on waivers. If the Orioles had wanted to protect Pop they would have. They gambled that no one would take him and keep him for an entire year. Had nothing to do with not having a spot available.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2021 at 12:07 pm

      John is correct. Eshelman was granted free agency on December 3, and was off the 40-man well before the Rule 5.

      • Buzz1979

        November 2, 2021 at 9:54 pm

        Ok, I stand corrected. Makes me feel better about the situation. Like all other Orioles let go, he has no place to go, so he comes crawling back like the prodigal son!

  7. calvinisthobbesian

    November 2, 2021 at 7:23 pm

    Wells? Just another pitching piñata in the Elias carnival. Since the O’s have shown no ability to develop pitchers at the major league level for several years now, what makes anyone think 2022 will be any different?

    • dlgruber1

      November 2, 2021 at 8:47 pm

      “Several years now”, you’re being far too kind. It’s been over 3 decades now since Mike Mussina, who was the last truly great home grown pitcher they’ve developed. As I’ve stated before as well, God developed him, they just drafted him.

    • BenSch

      November 3, 2021 at 9:19 pm

      This gets to my perpetual question: how good is our minor league coaching staff? Again, going back to the glory years (as I understand it) the Orioles, being a small market team, had to grow their own. And they made it work for a good 30 years or so.
      If like to see us get back to that. With an emphasis on pitching and defense.
      My 2 cents.

  8. Buzz1979

    November 2, 2021 at 9:55 pm

    What about Hess and Wright?!

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2021 at 10:06 pm

      David Hess is undergoing chemotherapy to
      reduce the size of a cancerous tumor in his chest. We send him our best wishes.

  9. Buzz1979

    November 2, 2021 at 10:48 pm

    Absolutely, I am a cancer survivor, so I am with him 100%!

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