Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Top Prospects: #14 – Justin Wilson

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To recap the countdown so far:

20. Jin-De Jhang, C

19. Andrew Oliver, LHP

18. Vic Black, RHP

17. Adrian Sampson, RHP

16. Wyatt Mathisen, C

15. Bryan Morris, RHP

We continue the countdown with the number 14 prospect, Justin Wilson.

Justin Wilson
Justin Wilson

14. Justin Wilson, LHP

Wilson’s first jump to the Triple-A level led to some struggles, and an eventual move to the bullpen to work on his control issues. The lefty finished the 2011 season in the bullpen, although the move wasn’t permanent. The Pirates moved Wilson back to the rotation to start the 2012 season, and sent him back to Triple-A.

After starting off with some poor control numbers in April, Wilson switched to more of an overhead delivery, aimed at keeping his body under control and making it easier to repeat his delivery. The new approach worked for a while, cutting down on his walks. The first start with the delivery led to a combined no-hitter, with Wilson throwing 7.1 no-hit innings with two walks and nine strikeouts. As the season progressed, the control issues started to re-appear.

Wilson has some of the best stuff in the system, but his control issues limit his upside. He throws a 92-96 MPH fastball as a starter, and has hit 99 as a reliever in the past. He also throws a curveball, slider, and changeup, with his curve being his best off-speed pitch.

The Pirates moved him back to the bullpen at the end of the 2012 season so that they could use him as an additional lefty out of the major league bullpen in September. His control problems limit his upside, but they exist as a starter and as a reliever, so there’s no benefit to moving him to the bullpen full time.

If Wilson could ever gain control, he’d be a strong number two starter. That’s a huge “if”, and almost impossible at this point. Even with the poor control, his stuff could make him a solid number four starter or a power left-handed reliever. He could get a crack at the majors during Spring Training. If he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, the best approach would be to keep him in the rotation, where he’d provide more value.

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  • How bout this….

    Wilson eases into the big leagues in the pen. The risk to the team should he struggle with control is minimized, as opposed to forcing the bullpen to absorb 6-7 innings of a lost-cause game. And Wilson gets to take baby steps.

    Then, if and when Wilson establishes himself as an effective reliever, we stretch him out and give him a shot in the rotation in the tradition of CJ Wilson, Lance Lynn and Kris Medlen.

    Any thoughts?

    • It sounds like a good plan, but my personal opinion is that Wilson is just never going to have good enough control to be a starter. His 4.50 BB/9 rate is nothing new — goes all the way back to his time at Fresno State.

      Wilson is also going to get caught in a numbers game. Not only are his contemporaries of Locke/McPherson ahead of him, but you have Cole/Taillon behind him. To say nothing of the McDonalds/Lirianos/Mortons/Irwins of the world.

  • Personally, his ‘at worst’ sounds like what we’d get from Liriano. Because of his upside, I would want him given a chance in the rotation.

    • I agree. I think

    • Oops…try number two.

      I agree, I think out of the three; McPherson, Locke, and Wilson, that while there is likely to be more consistency from the first two, respectively. However, there seems to be so much more upside with Wilson. I think numbers wise, he could be comparable to average #4 or 5 starters in the league today. The different is, most of those guys don’t have the stuff that Wilson does. Then, if you catch him on a day when his command is better, less than 3 walks I’d say, watch out.