Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Top Prospects: #14 – Justin Wilson
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To recap the countdown so far:
20. Jin-De Jhang, C
18. Vic Black, RHP
We continue the countdown with the number 14 prospect, Justin Wilson.
14. Justin Wilson, LHP
Wilson’s first jump to the Triple-A level led to some struggles, and an eventual move to the bullpen to work on his control issues. The lefty finished the 2011 season in the bullpen, although the move wasn’t permanent. The Pirates moved Wilson back to the rotation to start the 2012 season, and sent him back to Triple-A.
After starting off with some poor control numbers in April, Wilson switched to more of an overhead delivery, aimed at keeping his body under control and making it easier to repeat his delivery. The new approach worked for a while, cutting down on his walks. The first start with the delivery led to a combined no-hitter, with Wilson throwing 7.1 no-hit innings with two walks and nine strikeouts. As the season progressed, the control issues started to re-appear.
Wilson has some of the best stuff in the system, but his control issues limit his upside. He throws a 92-96 MPH fastball as a starter, and has hit 99 as a reliever in the past. He also throws a curveball, slider, and changeup, with his curve being his best off-speed pitch.
The Pirates moved him back to the bullpen at the end of the 2012 season so that they could use him as an additional lefty out of the major league bullpen in September. His control problems limit his upside, but they exist as a starter and as a reliever, so there’s no benefit to moving him to the bullpen full time.
If Wilson could ever gain control, he’d be a strong number two starter. That’s a huge “if”, and almost impossible at this point. Even with the poor control, his stuff could make him a solid number four starter or a power left-handed reliever. He could get a crack at the majors during Spring Training. If he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, the best approach would be to keep him in the rotation, where he’d provide more value.