Stanford University, Junior
6-5, 245 lbs, B/T: R/R
It's like deja vu all over again.
Austin Wilson was one of the players on my short list for the 2010 draft. I liked him then. I like him now.
However, back then, based solely on his ability, Wilson would likely have been a top 10 selection. However, he slipped because of signability concerns. He wanted to attend Stanford. He did. Education is important to Wilson and his family, as his mother went to Stanford, while his father went to MIT.
Now, Wilson is looking more like a mid to late first round pick. Adding in the recently implemented draft spending limitations and Wilson probably cost himself some money in taking the college path. Still, he valued his education and undoubtedly has no regrets.
Back to the present, Wilson's value is being driven down by an injury he suffered early in this college baseball season. He suffered a stress reaction above his right elbow on opening day and, while he returned to action, never quite looked the same. So, not only did he miss time, but the time he did log was difficult to evaluate.
On the season, Wilson hit .288/.387/.475 with 5 homers, 5 steals in 7 attempts, and a 18/13 K/BB ratio over 118 ABs and 31 games. For someone with his size and ability, the average and slugging are underwhelming, but again it was an injury plagued season. Still, in his three seasons at Stanford, Wilson never slugged over .500 (2011: .423, 2012: .493, 2013: .475).
When Wilson faced Arizona State University, he squared off against draft prospect Trevor Williams, a righthander likely to be taken in the top 75 picks. So, it was a good test for Wilson. Unfortunately, it didn't go as well as expected. Williams had good success with the elevated fastball. On three separate occasions, including two for strikeouts, Williams threw 91/92 mph fastballs past Wilson up in the zone. Those three pitches also had a bit of run in on Wilson's hands, so up and in may be particularly problematic. But, later in the game, Wilson also swung through an elevated 87 mph fastball over the middle of the plate from reliever Darin Gillies. Wilson just couldn't catch up to the elevated fastball, which is problematic because those pitches were only average velocity, at best, at the MLB level. All of which begs the question, could he not catch up because of flawed swing mechanics and long levers? Or, could he not catch up because of lingering injury issues?
Wilson did collect two hits in that game, a double to right center and a chopper up the middle for a single. On both swings, Wilson was reaching with his arms and had minimal lower body rotation. On the double, he was strong enough with his upper body to hit it into the gap, but he didn't drive either ball with much authority.
Here's a look at Wilson in action, courtesy of Steve Fiorindo on YouTube:
There is a lot to like with Austin Wilson. He's a physical specimen with massive potential power and the athleticism to be an above average defender in a corner slot. He has a lot of potential value-drivers. But, his swing is still a work in progress. He has yet to really lock into a set of swing mechanics that capitalize on his potential.
At the plate, he struggles with the high fastball, which exposes a hole in his swing. He also seems to reach for pitches on the outer half too much, restricting his lower body rotation and extending his arms too far from his body. Instead of stepping into those pitches to drive them to the opposite field, he reaches for the pitch with his arms and relies largely on his hand/arm strength to power the swing. He also doesn't turn on the inside pitch as effectively as you'd like to see, especially since he should have tremendous pull power. That may be part of the Stanford's hitting philosophy or it could be a problem specific to Wilson's swing. Wilson has a lot of potential, but whichever organization drafts him will have to work to polish up his swing mechanics.
I'm still intrigued by Austin Wilson's upside, but the downside is more substantial than I'd like. His athleticism will make him an above average defensive player, so the bat alone won't have to carry him up the ladder. Still, the player development department of his future organization will need to know what they're doing to get the most out of Wilson.
If Wilson's swing can be straightened out, then he could be the steal of the draft. An impact middle-of-the-order hitter who provides above average defense. However, the downside is a taller hitter with holes in his swing and an inability to tap into his power potential during game action. Still, his upside is intriguing enough to land him on my draft board.