Justin Wilson

Stats — WTM

Wilson’s not an easy guy to peg right now. His college numbers at Fresno State weren’t great when the Pirates drafted him (he posted big strikeout numbers early in his career but in his junior season his K/9 dropped to 7.7 and his BB/9 was 5.0) and he wasn’t all that highly regarded, but he held out for quite some time because of his awesome performance in the last game of the 2008 College World Series. He signed close to the deadline presumably on the advice that he was lucky to be drafted in the fifth round and that if he didn’t sign, he wouldn’t be so lucky in the future.

The Pirates surprisingly placed him in Lynchburg, which seemed aggressive given his college struggles. He didn’t do anything to prove that notion wrong at first, struggling badly through June. Wilson’s ERA in July took a big dip to 2.84 in six starts, but his 18 strikeouts and 15 walks didn’t quite match that perfomance. Then, in August, something clicked and he turned in 25 strikeouts against just 7 walks in 27 innings, posting a 2.33 ERA in five starts. As a result his final line for the season doesn’t look awful and he suddenly looks like a much more interesting prospect. He’s at least worth keeping an eye on now, if only to see if the improvement that he showed late last season carries through to another year.

July 2010 Update: I feel pretty confident in saying that Wilson is the most underrated pitching prospect in the system. In Altoona this year, he’s striking out 8.3 hitters per nine against 3.6 walks per, which are both improvements on his numbers from last year (7.3 and 4.3 respectively). His groundball rate is hovering right around 50% and he’s in general improved on just about every aspect of his game so far after a decent 2009 that featured a very strong finish.

He’s 22 this, so that puts him right in line age-wise with Locke and Owens in Altoona and I think it’s time he started getting as much attention as the other two. July 2010 rank: 4

January 2011 update: I like Wilson quite a bit and I feel like he tends to get lost in the shuffle sometimes with Owens and the two higher-profile trade targets Locke and Morris. The Pirates have promoted him aggressively and he’s responded, improving on his sneaky-good 2009 with Lynchburg all over the board in Altoona in 2010. The concern is that he doesn’t throw all that hard, and so he lives off of his offspeed stuff which he sometimes has trouble controlling. I’m really interested to see how he does with more patient hitters in Triple-A in 2011. January 2011 rank: 6 

Pat Lackey

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.