If you happen to be tooling around Southwest Florida taking in some Gulf Coast League ballgames this spring, there's a good chance you'll think the Minnesota Twins and the Baltimore Orioles have somehow finagled a way to use the same pitcher.He's a lean lefty, broad-shouldered despite his slim build, with
If you happen to be tooling around Southwest Florida taking in some Gulf Coast League ballgames this spring, there's a good chance you'll think the Minnesota Twins and the Baltimore Orioles have somehow finagled a way to use the same pitcher.
He's a lean lefty, broad-shouldered despite his slim build, with an introspective squint and glasses that call to mind Ricky Vaughn in "Major League." But unlike the wild, fireballing Vaughn, this pitcher is methodical and efficient, his delivery is smooth and easy, and his fastball -- for the time being -- tops out around 90 mph.
Meet 19-year-old Australian identical twins Lachlan and Alexander Wells.
Alexander may be a hair taller and a touch heavier than his 6-foot, 175-pound brother, but the resemblance in both physical appearance and mannerisms is uncanny. The pair grew up in the Newcastle area, about 90 miles up Australia's southeast coast from Sydney. As young boys, they played cricket. But around their 10th birthday, they decided to give baseball a go, at one of the many "Come and Try" days organized by the local Belmont Baseball Club. Both were outfielders for a time, then settled on pitching.
Lachlan, currently ranked No. 30 on the Twins' Top 30 Prospects list, began following the Oakland Athletics, who had Australians Grant Balfour, Luke Hughes and Travis Blackley in their system. Alexander liked the New York Mets, because they were the first team he saw play on TV and he liked their style of play. Both promptly told their parents that they, too, would one day play professional baseball.
In August 2014, Lachlan, the younger brother by seven minutes, signed with the Twins, leaving Alexander 9,300 miles and 15 time zones behind to live and play in Fort Myers. This past offseason, Alexander followed suit, inking a deal with the Orioles, whose Spring Training home is a scant 75 miles up I-75 from The Twins'.
Lachlan and Alexander are uber-competitive in everything life throws at them, from baseball and the gym to PlayStation and even everyday eating; who wins, they say, depends on what's on the menu. But when his brother got the first crack at a pro contract, Alexander was nothing but thrilled.
"I was proud of Lachlan," Alexander says. "It was good for Australian baseball to have another guy over here playing professionally, and I was hoping I could do the same in the future. It motivated me to work harder and get better to get a contract of my own."
Lachlan had the same emotions when Alexander signed, and since both deals came with a bonus of $300,000 -- a sign of their special talent -- neither has bragging rights in that regard.
"I was pretty excited," Lachlan says. "When I signed, he was very happy for me, and then he gets the opportunity to come and do the exact same thing, so it was pretty cool. We are both fulfilling a childhood dream."
The Orioles said Lachlan's success stateside helped to put Alexander on their radar. Alexander said Lachlan's experience with the Twins helped ease his own transition to American pro ball by giving him an idea of what to expect.
"It was still tough, coming over, though," Lachlan said. "A 15-hour flight and a 15-hour time difference? It's killer. You just can't prepare for that."
Ask each twin to describe himself as a pitcher, and their answers are as identical as their DNA. Pitch to contact. Try to get ground balls and outs rather than strikeouts. Mix speeds, hit your spots, get ahead in the count with a four-seam fastball, curveball and changeup.
"I do throw a bit harder than Alexander does," Lachlan says. "That's the only difference."
"He does throw harder than me," Alexander said. "For the time being."
Orioles director of player development Brian Graham would like to see Alexander command his fastball and spin his curveball a bit more, but velocity is one thing about which Graham is not worried at all.
"With Alex, you like the body, you can see he's going to grow to be a big, strong kid, and his delivery is very pure," Graham said. "I think his velocity will naturally increase, because he has everything correct -- from the mechanics to the delivery to the size."
Par for the course, Twins Gulf Coast League pitching coach Virgil Vasquez said basically the same thing about Lachlan.
"I want Lachlan to continue to develop his location -- where he needs to pitch against different swing types -- and to continue to develop movement, because his ball is sneaky," Vasquez said. "I'm not worried about velocity, though, because as he gets older, I believe velocity will come."
The twins will start this season in the Gulf Coast League, playing each other regularly, which will make for easy logistics when their parents make the trek from Down Under to see them play in July. But both brothers hope to perform well enough to see some time at the Class A level, Alexander with the Aberdeen IronBirds in Maryland and Lachlan with the Cedar Rapids Kernels in Iowa.
At which point, Mr. and Mrs. Wells would have a decision to make. But two sons moving up the ranks in professional baseball is a nice problem to have.
Lindsay Berra is a reporter for MLB.com.