Sunday, November 16, 2008

Number 1 Prospect in Baseball: Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson, 1b Born: Oct. 20, 1985. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185.
Drafted: University of Florida, 2006 (42nd round). Signed by: Blackout Pact.
Background: The Mariners had the No. 5 overall pick in the 2006 draft, but their best choice turned out to be their 42nd-rounder. They signed Wilson, a bigger than life kid out of the University of Florida, for $260,000 a year later as a draft-and-follow. Had he not signed, "The Fulcrum" as he has been affectionately called by peers, projected as a top-five-rounds talent for the 2007 draft. He led the Rookie-level Arizona League with seven homers in his pro debut, but a major leg infection knocked him out in mid-August of his 2006 follow-up. He re-established his prospect credentials in 2007, when he became the first righthanded hitter to top 20 homers for high Class A Wisconsin since Jay Buhner in 1987. He turned his second straight 20-homer, 100-RBI campaign in 2008 at Double-A San Antonio, this time in a pitcher's park.

Strengths: No active player resembles Wilson, not entirely. He's not an intimidating 6-foot, 185 pounds, yet he exhibits strong bat control instead of always selling out for power. In fact, he takes pride in his ability to hit for average and focuses on taking the ball to center and right field when pitchers work him away—and that's despite having the raw power to rival any player in the system. He generates this massive power from his wrists, but others believe he gets his power from his piercing blue eyes. He has tightened his strike zone and closed holes in his swing each season. Wilson is athletic for his size and an average runner under way. He throws very well and shows surprising agility and hands at first base, where he has average potential as a defender. Wilson's advocates think he has sufficient range and instincts to play an outfield corner, though he has played just two games there as a pro (both in 2007). He has done a good job monitoring his weight since ballooning to nearly 285 pounds after his layoff in 2006.

Weaknesses: Despite incorporating a stride and a sense of timing in his swing in 2007, Wilson still has a tendency to hit with dead hands because he uses a minimal load to his swing. That cuts into his home run production, but it does make him less susceptible to hard stuff on the inner half. He hasn't shown much power against lefthanders the last two seasons, as he has struggled to stay back on their backdoor breaking balls. He's much more comfortable facing righthanders, even sidearmers and submariners, because they tend to work him hard inside and he can just react. Wilson will need to continue to make conditioning a priority. He has slowed a bit since signing and isn't quick out of the batter's box.

The Future: After refining his batting eye in the Arizona Fall League, where he posted a .430 on-base percentage, Wilson is ticketed for Triple-A Tacoma. He may learn to play left field, though Seattle has yet to make a final decision. At first base, he's blocked by minor league all-star Bryan LaHair. But if Wilson continues to produce like he has the last two seasons, the Mariners will find room in their lineup for him. Getting rid of Richie Sexson last year was a step in the right direction for this middling franchise.

2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
San Antonio (AA)

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