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Top 50 All-Time Jays: #9 Vernon Wells

Vernon Wells | CF |1999-

Notable Accomplishments: All-Star 2003,2006 Gold Glove 2004-2006 Silver Slugger 2003

Vernon Wells was born December 8, 1978 in Shreveport, Louisiana. His father, Vernon Wells Sr. was a football player, a receiver, who played in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders and the Ottawa Rough Riders. Our Vernon was drafted by the Jays in the first round of the 1997 draft, 5th pick overall out of high school in Arlington, Texas. JD Drew and Troy Glaus were 2 of the ones picked before him.

He rose quickly through the minors; in 1999 played in four levels, starting the season in A-Ball and finishing in the Majors, getting called up to the Jays at the end of August. He got 88 at bats. In 2000 he was a September call-up and again in 2001 he spent most of the season in Triple-A with a couple of call-ups. He was considered the Jays top prospect and took part in the MLB Futures game a couple of times.

2002 was Vernon's first full season with the Jays, he played 159 games, mostly in center but a handful in right. He had a pretty good season, batting .275 with 23 homers and 100 RBI. He was the youngest Jay to drive in 100 runs at 23, but of course, Travis Snider is going to beat that this year.

In 2003 Wells had his best season (so far). He played in 161 games, hit .317/.359/.550, and led the league with 215 hits, 49 doubles and 373 total bases. He was in 3rd runs scored with 118 and RBI with 117. The 215 hits set a Jays team record. He made the All-Star team, won the Silver Slugger award and was 8th in MVP voting (Jay Carlos Delgado was 2nd to Alex Rodriguez that year, another Jay outfielder Shannon Stewart came in 4th but was traded in mid-season). He also had a 20 game hitting streak and became only the 3rd center fielder in major league history to drive in 100 runs his first 2 full seasons in the majors and as the other were Joe DiMaggio and Al Simmons he's in pretty good company. Yeah it was a heck of a season.

Vernon's numbers dropped off some in 2004, he hit .272/.337/.472 with 23 homers and 67 RBI. He missed a month with a strained calf muscle, so only got into 134 games. He did win his first Gold Glove that year. 2005 was a similar season with the bat, hitting .269/.320/.463 with 28 home runs and 97 RBI. He got in a full season that year playing 156 games. Not a bad season, 28 homers is nothing to sneeze at and he won his second Gold Glove, he didn't make an error in the field all season.

Wells had another terrific season in 2006, he hit .303/.357/.542 with 32 homers and 106 RBI and 40 doubles. He was 9th in the AL in hits (185) and 5th in total bases (331). He won his 3rd Gold Glove, got into his second All-Star game and got a couple of MVP votes. He became just the 3rd Jay to have 20+ homers in 5 consecutive seasons. 8 of his 32 homers came against the Red Sox. He also had a career high 17 stolen bases.

After the season Vernon cashed in on his good year big time, signing a 7 year $126 million contract. In 2010 Vernon will make $12.5 million, then in 2011 he's to get $23 million and $21 million the next 3 years. So, yeah, unless he breaks the single season home run record in the next year or two he's totally untradeable. Sorry JP that was a terrible contract, Wells is good and all, but not $20+ million a year good.

2007 was a terrible season for Wells; he hit just .245/.304/.402 and had less than 20 home runs for the first time in a full season with 16. A shoulder problem that he had surgery for in September of that year likely caused the poor season.

Vernon had another injury filled season in 2008, he missed time with a fractured wrist and later with a hamstring sprain. He still led the Jays in homers with 20 and RBI with 78 even though he only played 108 games. When he played he hit pretty well, 300/.343/.496. This season he seems healthy and we are hoping for a big year.

Vernon's defense used to be good, I don't really think it was Gold Glove good, but not far off. Last year it wasn't good. This year, at least to my eye, it doesn't look great. It looks to me like he has lost some range. Perhaps it is time to move him to a corner spot in the outfield.

Wells is kind of a strange case, he's a good player, but not a great player and he's being paid like he is one of the greats in the league. So he's untradeable, and by the end of his contract he'll likely be the franchise leader in RBI and home runs. But then Vernon is only 30 this year so he could still have some great seasons ahead.

Vernon is married with 2 children.

Vernon Wells' place among Blue Jay batting leaders:

Batting Average (>2000 PA) 12th .284
On Base Average (>2000 PA) 23rd .332
Slugging Average (>2000 PA) 7th .481
Games Played 8th 1088
At bats 5th 4293
Runs Scored 5th 635
Hits 5th 1218
Doubles 3rd 261
Home Runs 4th 179
RBI 4th 664
Walks 13th 311
Stolen Bases 17th 69
Runs Created 5th 675
Extra Base Hits 3rd 464
Ground into Double Plays 1st 112