When the Pittsburgh Pirates moved Justin Wilson to the bullpen, it was a lot like the Bryan Morris move to the bullpen. Wilson’s career as a starter wasn’t totally shut down, he was just moving to the bullpen to work on his command issues, which have led to a 4.58 BB/9 ratio this year. So far, Wilson has been completely dominant out of the bullpen, raising the question as to whether that should be his full time role.
In Wilson’s first outing since being moved to the bullpen he was hitting 97 MPH with his fastball in a two inning outing. In his outing last night he hit 99 MPH four times in a perfect inning. A left hander who can hit 97-99 MPH on several occasions out of the bullpen is very rare, and is especially valuable for the Pirates, who need left handed relievers in the majors. It’s been a small sample size, but Wilson hasn’t seen the control problems out of the bullpen that he saw in the rotation.
There’s probably a good reason for that last part. A lot of Wilson’s control issues weren’t so much because he lacked control. The issue was that Wilson has a lot of movement on his fastball, and a lot of that movement is late. The late movement makes it hard to keep in the strike zone. In theory if Wilson speeds up the pitches, such as going from a 91-94 MPH fastball to a 97-99 MPH fastball for example, he will leave less time for the pitch to move, making it easier to control. He’ll still get movement on his fastball, but with less time to move, he won’t get wild movement.
Wilson has a big breaking curveball that could be used as a strikeout pitch out of the bullpen. When paired with his upper 90s fastball, he could be a back of the bullpen option for years to come for the Pirates. If he keeps this up for the remainder of the Indianapolis regular season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get added to the 40-man roster and called up in September. Keep in mind that it’s only three innings that we’re going off of here, but 97-99 MPH from a left hander is impressive, no matter how many innings we’re talking about.