In one of the more controversial moves for the New York Yankees, they acquired Vernon Wells from the Los Angeles Angels towards the end of Spring Training. Nearly every Yankees fan complained, including myself. However just about two weeks into the season, were we all wrong about him?
Wells, who was once one of the American League’s top stars with the Toronto Blue Jays, really began to falter when he joined the Angels. He had career lows in batting averages in the two years that he spent there, and many predicted that Wells was done. People thought that he had little to nothing left in his tank, and thought that the Yankees acquisition of him was utterly pointless.
But the Yankees thought differently. Up until they made the trade, Wells was one of the Angels’ hottest hitters in Spring Training. While those stats mean close to nothing, perhaps Yankees’ brass saw something that every fan didn’t.
They thought that Vernon was back.
Upon acquiring him, Wells’ position with the Yankees was in high standard. With the loss of Curtis Granderson due to injury, the Yankees needed to find a replacement outfielder. Wells was easily able to fit that profile.
Yet still, even when Wells showed flashes of brilliance as a Yankee during Spring Training, we all still complained. We all still didn’t believe in Vernon Wells.
Albeit it is still a small sample size, I think that Wells is proving us all wrong. In the nine games that he has appeared in so far this season, Wells has looked like his old self. He is hitting .333 with three home runs and five RBIs. He has also accumulated 11 hits, something he has had some trouble doing over the past few years. What has also been impressive about Wells so far is that even his outs have been hard-hit. Taking the loss against the Baltimore Orioles on April 13th for example, Wells hit two very hard hit fly balls to deep parts of Yankee Stadium, only for them to be caught. An out is an out, yes, but there is always something to take away from a hard hit one.
So what has been the cause for Wells’ resurgence?
First and foremost, a change in scenery always helps. During today’s YES Network broadcast, Paul O’Neill mentioned that there is something about Anaheim that makes a player more relaxed than they usually are. In a town like New York, playing relaxed is no way to make an impression on your fans or teammates. Wells is also playing for his father. We have heard many times now during broadcasts that it was always Wells’ father’s dream to see his son play in pinstripes. There is no doubt that he wants to make his father proud.
Another reason is that Wells has shortened his swing. In his years with LA, Wells elongated his swing, causing him to miss pitches. A shorter swing has allowed him to get the bat around quicker, thus generating a tremendous amount of batspeed, which also helps create the power that he has always been known for.
It will be interesting to see if Wells can keep this up throughout the year. Once Granderson returns, Wells will likely be part of a platoon with another outfielder, but as long as his mechanics are good, he should be able to perform well all season long.