Justin Wilson Video Recap

Justin Wilson was drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, signing later in the summer after leading Fresno State to a College World Series championship. Wilson helped clinch the title, pitching eight innings and allowing one run with nine strikeouts in the Championship game.

Wilson used his success last year to demand a higher signing bonus, although he ended up settling for $195 K, which was $2000 under slot, a few days before the signing deadline. Due to the holdout of sorts, Wilson didn’t pitch at all last season for the Pirates.

Wilson started his career this season in high A with Lynchburg, and has a 4.50 ERA in 102 innings pitched, with an 83:48 K/BB ratio thus far. He’s recently started to see more success, with a 1.45 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and a 35:20 K/BB ratio over 43.1 innings pitched in his last eight starts, including six straight starts with zero or one runs.

Baseball America, who ranked Wilson the 29th best prospect in the Pirates’ system before the season, says that Wilson struggled to command his four pitch arsenal in college. He has a fastball with good life, that usually sits in the high 80s, but has reached as high as 93. He also throws a sharp breaking curveball, and a slider with less break, and struggled with a changeup before this season. From reports I’ve received in Lynchburg, Wilson tries to overpower hitters, which can sometimes make him a bit wild.

The start Wilson made on Sunday was by far his best of the season, pitching seven shutout innings, with five hits allowed, no walks, and 11 strikeouts. I didn’t get any radar gun information on Wilson, so it’s hard to say if he was trying to over power hitters with the fastball. Based on what I saw, he was focused more on smart pitching, mixing up his pitches, getting batters out with tricky breaking pitches, and occasionally blowing a fastball by a batter who was looking for a slower paced breaking ball.

One start doesn’t make a career, but in this start (the only one I’ve seen Wilson make), I saw three things that suggest that Wilson can be an effective pitcher:

1. He has some good breaking stuff
2. He mixes up his pitches well.
3. He throws strikes.

I didn’t get video on every pitch he threw (I missed the first inning, where he recorded three strikeouts), but I did get three full innings, plus two slow motion shots at the end of the playlist below.

I’m not sure if I’ll get to see Wilson pitch again this season, and he could be on his way to Altoona next year. This one start suggests that his recent success has been no fluke. If this is how he’s been pitching for the last month and a half, then I can see why he has had so much success. I didn’t see Wilson try to overpower hitters as much in this start, although despite his success he does have a 4.95 BB/9 ratio in his previous seven starts before Sunday’s outing.

That raises a big question: was this outing a fluke, or was it an example of how good Wilson can be if he just lets his stuff do the work, and avoids trying to over-power hitters?

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Watch 8/19/09

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  • Anonymous

    Love the new site design, Tim … clean and sharp-looking all at once.

  • Jim Rosati

    I'm really liking what we're seeing from Wilson down the stretch.

    The beginning of the year really worried me, but he seems to be on the right path now.

    Hopefully he can continue this throughout the remainder of the season and into AA in 2010.

  • Tim Williams

    Thanks for the comments…uh…anonymous.

  • Tim Williams


    I thought about suggesting that the layoff last year could have impacted Wilson at the start of the year (just like it could have also impacted Alvarez). Both started out slow, then picked up the pace the last month and a half.

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