December 6, 2014
The Toronto Blue Jays put together arguably the best draft of all MLB franchises in 2014. After picking up more well-known names such as Max Pentecost, Jeff Hoffman, and Sean Reid-Foley, the Blue Jays selected RHP Chase Wellbrock from the University of Houston in the 33rd round. While it’s too early to reasonably speculate on how any drafted player’s career will end up, the righty has hit the ground running. Of the 28 signed draftees, Wellbrock is the first to reach a full-season affiliate when he was promoted to the Lansing Lugnuts in late August.
“My draft experience was a very exciting time. I was a little on edge because I didn’t know if I was going to get an opportunity in professional baseball,” recalls Wellbrock. “When I heard my name called I was ecstatic. I celebrated with family, friends, and old teammates. It was very exciting.”
Beginning his professional career with the Blue Jays advanced rookie-ball club the Bluefield Blue Jays, Wellbrock made a great professional debut, going 2-2 with 34 strikeouts and two saves in his 24 1/3 innings of work in Bluefield.
What made Wellbrock’s numbers more impressive is that he only allowed 13 hits, one earned run, and opposing hitters were only managing a .153 batting average against the righty in the Appalachian League. As great as those numbers were; what really jumps off the page was Wellbrock’s 12.6 K/9 ratio and 0.575 WHIP, it’s safe to say Wellbrock was ready for a promotion out of a league that he was roughly 1.5 years older than most of his competition.
The organization did just that, giving the Texas native an opportunity in the Midwest League for the final week of the season. Joining the Lansing Lugnuts on their final road trip of the season in Dayton, Ohio, Wellbrock made his Midwest League debut on August 28th throwing three scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out three. The 22-year-old made another Lugnuts appearance on August 30th against the South Bend Silver Hawks. In this outing, Wellbrock pitched four innings and after having a tough inning allowing five hits and four runs, the young prospect slammed the door retiring the last 12 batters he faced.
“I was really excited when I found out the organization wanted me to come to Lansing,” said Wellbrock. “I really liked Bluefield. My coaches and teammates were great, but coming to Lansing presented me with an opportunity to play on a higher level club in the organization.”
My Dad and my older brother are my biggest baseball influences in my life.
Enjoying his new pitching coach’s attitude when it comes to helping his players, the 2014 draftee discusses his favorite parts of working with Vince Horsman in Lansing.
“Vince is an awesome guy. I only had a couple days in Lansing to learn from him,” stated Wellbrock. “Vince is a guy that has high expectations for everybody on his staff. He’s easy to talk to if you ever need anything. He’s always willing to work on anything with you. He’s an awesome guy. I really like him as a pitching coach.”
Prior to getting an opportunity in professional baseball, Wellbrock played four seasons at the University of Houston. The young pitcher spent time as both a starter and a reliever. Wellbrock is the program’s all-time saves leader with 24.
Having a breakout season his senior year, Wellbrock was 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA, 37 strikeouts, and 12 saves in his 46 1/3 innings.
“I loved the University of Houston. It was a great place. I loved my coaches and teammates. I’ll remember my teammates for the rest of my life,’ explained Wellbrock. “Honestly, we had a lot of fun as a team. It was a great experience. This year we got a chance to play in the conference regional against Louisville and then we moved on to LSU. Getting that experience was awesome, then we got an opportunity to move up to Austin to play the University of Texas. After that there were a few mixed feelings. Some of us thought we deserved a chance in Omaha, but that’s baseball. That happens in this game.”
After a season of playing both college and professional baseball in the same calendar year, Wellbrock sees similarities between the two.
“Starting out in Bluefield, I knew some of the guys were younger. I’m 22 and I knew a lot of the hitters were only 19, 20, or 21,” Wellbrock said. “Honestly, after the first game in Bluefield I noticed the talent was pretty similar to D1 baseball. Everybody at this level is here for a reason. Every player in pro ball has certain things they’re really good at doing. Honestly, you can’t take anybody lightly. I try to take that mentality out to the mound every game. Whether I have a good or bad day you can always learn something new.”
For those who haven’t had an opportunity to see Wellbrock pitch yet, the young right-hander was kind enough to give you a scouting report on his game.
“I’m not a guy that’s going to blow people away,” explained Wellbrock. “I pound the zone when I can and I expand when I can. I throw strikes and work fast. I hate the dragging feeling a baseball game can have sometimes, so I like to keep the tempo up and I think it helps the defense stay focused. I also feel my tempo helps the offense as well. The faster I work, the quicker they can get back to the plate to hit.”
With a passion for the game instilled in him at a young age by his brother and father, Wellbrock decided to follow in his family footsteps and pursue the game he loves. He’s appreciative for all they have done for him over the years.
“My Dad and my older brother are my biggest baseball influences in my life,” stated Wellbrock. “Growing up watching my brother play baseball, I always tried to be like him and compete with him. Obviously he was better because he was older, but it was a lot of fun playing the game or just catch in the yard. My Dad was great too. He also played the game and he would get on me sometimes. But it’s okay, because they both taught me the game of baseball and how to play it the right way. Those are two guys I really look up to and it was great growing up with them.”
Now in his first professional off-season, Wellbrock will need to find a routine that works for him. The right-hander already has a plan on what he’s hoping to achieve this winter, before heading into his first spring training camp.
“I know I will work out in the off-season. I’ll continue to throw and get stronger,” said Wellbrock. “I’m planning on continuing lightly as I prepare for the spring. I’m hoping to get my body in the best shape I can for spring training.”
Watch for Chase Wellbrock, as he continues to be a great bullpen arm option for one of the Blue Jays full season affiliates in 2015.