Wells has been a member of the Tigers organization since 2005, when Detroit selected him in the 14th round out of Towson State. A two-way player at Towson, Wells was a 1st Team All-Colonial Athletic Association player as a sophomore, and was the CAA Player of the Year as a junior. In addition, he earned 2nd Team All-American honors in his third season. During that final campaign on campus, Casper posted a ridiculous .362/.475/.723 line, along with a 6-0 record in twelve starts on the mound. Wells' offensive production included 15 doubles, 18 home runs and 66 runs driven in.
The Tigers assigned Wells to the Gulf Coast League for his first pro experience, and while he continued to show significant power (nine doubles, five triples, and five home runs in 45 games) he struggled to make contact with 59 strikeouts. Much of his production in that first season came during the month of July, as Wells went .254/.384/.592 and was awarded TigsTown's GCL Player of the Month.
In 2006, Casper saw some limited time in Lakeland in an emergency role, but spent the bulk of his time playing for Oneonta of the New York-Penn League. Wells' power-laden success from the GCL in 2005 did not translate to his second pro season, as he managed just a .229/.289/.333 line in 35 games for the O-Tigers. Casper followed much of the same path in 2007, though with much more success in the NYPL. He finished among the top ten in the league in at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, and slugging; all while leading the circuit with eleven triples on the season.
After finally mastering the short-season leagues, Wells was promoted to West Michigan for his first true taste of full-season ball in 2008. He got off to a solid start by going .240/.322/.447 through fifty games; displaying power and patience to start his fourth season. When injuries struck at Double-A Erie, the Tigers vaulted Casper up two levels in hopes that he could fill and emergency role before returning to the Whitecaps. Instead, Wells went crazy at the plate and finished the season with Erie; posting an eye-popping .289/.358/.589 line in 75 games. Despite missing nearly half the Double-A season, Wells still tied for tenth in the Eastern League in home runs with seventeen.
As if that wasn't enough, Wells went to the Arizona Fall League after outfielder Clete Thomas was forced to go under the knife for surgery on his elbow, and he continued to rake. Splitting time between the outfield and first base, Wells mashed his way to a .321/.424/.705 line, earning himself a spot on both the AFL Rising Stars team, and the AFL All-Prospect Team.
Wells is an absolute tool shed of a player, and things finally began to come together for him in 2008. Defensively, he has above-average speed in the outfield and his long strides can allow him to track balls down in the gaps with ease. His instincts are roughly average and he takes solid routes to most balls. While he has the ability to handle center field, he is much better suited to right field with his rocket right arm. He has plus arm strength with excellent carry and accuracy.
At the plate, Wells has prodigious power potential and a developing eye. He has tremendous natural strength and a slight upper-cut to his swing that allows him to generate excellent back spin and loft on his ball; getting them out of the yard with ease. Erie hitting coach Glenn Adams and Roving Hitting Instructor Toby Harrah made a slight tweak to Wells' stance and trigger at the plate, allowing him to see the ball a bit better and get his swing going a bit sooner; and that may have enabled him to make the leap forward that he did in the season's second half.
Though he has monster power and he hit for a good average at Erie and in the Arizona Fall League, there are still concerns over his ability to make contact routinely. His batting eye has improved and he has shown an increased willingness to work counts and draw walks, but that is not expected to become a reliable or significant part of his game. As an aggressive hitter, he will likely always strike out a fair amount, but if he continues to hit for power and a decent average, few are likely to care.
Wells has impact potential at the Major League level, and he could be a starting corner outfielder on any team in baseball if he can maintain the progress he showed in 2008.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% A
Wells has been healthy and durable throughout much of his professional career. He is an excellent athlete with a tremendous work ethic and a desire to be in tremendous shape; all attributes that should lend to him avoiding injuries more than most.
Wells is very likely to head north from spring training with a spot in the Toledo outfield, though there is a slim chance he repeats at Double-A Erie. He showed tremendous progress in 2009 and earned himself a spot on the 40-man roster during the off-season. Wells could be ready for the Major Leagues at some point this season, and he may force his way into consideration for the 2010 roster with another big season. With a relatively frail pair of outfielders on the corners in Detroit, Wells could well make his Major League debut at some point this summer; and don't be surprised if he doesn't look back and seizes a role with the big league club.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.