Don’t Sleep On Justin Wilson

It may not be right out of Spring Training, but at some point this season I expect Justin Wilson to be firmly entrenched in the Pirates’ major league bullpen.

Quick re-cap — Wilson was a 5th round pick from the 2008 draft.  He was a hero as a starter for Fresno State in the College World Series.  He has been a starter in college and the vast majority of his time in the Pirates’ minor league system.

Wilson has made 73 starts and 10 relief appearances during his 3 years in the system.  Wilson is said to possess such movement on his pitches that it works against him leading to high walk totals.  The 24-year-old has a career mark of 4.5 BB/9 in the minors.

Near the end of the 2011 season, however, the Pirates moved Wilson into a bullpen role.  While in the bullpen, Wilson’s fastball jumped up to 97 mph with some other rumored readings of 99 mph. 

With Clint Hurdle’s oft-stated preference for 2 lefties out of the bullpen, Wilson could pair with Tony Watson to form that tandem.  Wilson does not have extreme splits between right and left-handed batters, so he wouldn’t be restricted to a LOOGY role.  If his fastball can consistently stay in the 95+ mph range, Wilson could be an intriguing option as a set-up man or even as a closer candidate in the future.

*** Stray unrelated thought — If anyone in the Pirates’ clubhouse has any sense of humor, they’ll have a bundt cake waiting for A.J. Burnett when he comes off the disabled list.