School: University of Memphis
Selected 2014 stats
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (20): Jacob Wilson was not selected until #20 in the community vote. Nbr1hawkeye believes that Wilson could end up better than Aledmys Diaz in the long run. MagnoliaCardFan likes Wilson defensively, believing him to be better than Breyvic Valera at second base, even though Valera was voted best in the Florida State League at the position in 2014. Mudville is interested to see what Wilson can do if he can stay healthy for all of next year. - Jeremy Byrd
Derek Shore: Wilson capped off a breakout 2013 season with a 28th ranking in last winter’s top 40. The second baseman was on the verge of an even stronger 2014 season before it was cut short by a season-ending knee injury that required surgery. But because Wilson hit well and proved his health in the AFL this fall, and is perhaps one of the better infield prospects closest to the majors, he earned a top 15 spot in these rankings for 2015.
The second baseman played 66 games between Palm Beach and Springfield this summer. Wilson hit .298 with no home runs and 20 RBI in 30 games at Palm Beach, then added 120 points to his slugging percentage plus five home runs at Springfield while hitting .305 in his final 36 games before the injury. This fall, Wilson hit .289/.347/.389 with seven doubles and 13 RBI in 24 games.
The stocky 5-foot-11 former Memphis Tiger didn’t flash as much power as in 2013, when he jacked 18 long balls. But, Wilson has the capability to square up a baseball as he has the strength and bat speed to continue to hit homers. Because of an over-aggressive approach and tendency to swing out of the strike zone at times, I do not expect him to maintain an average near .300 at the higher levels, as more advanced pitchers will exploit that.
The Cardinals cut ties with Daniel Descalso and always have a need for right-handed power hitters who can handle multiple infield positions. Now fully healthy, Wilson should be ready for Memphis in 2015 and he could see some big-league time should his bat transition to Triple-A.
Brian Walton (13): For these rankings, I went through a comparative process of the middle infielders in full-season ball, all of whom are top 20 players, in my opinion. Wilson came in just behind Aledmys Diaz, but ahead of Juan Herrera and Breyvic Valera. Comparing the two Springfield second basemen in 2014, the pop in Wilson’s bat is a differentiator while Valera’s switch-hitting ability and greater defensive versatility benefits him a bit.
The Cardinals did a smart thing with Wilson’s development defensively in 2014, opening him up to all four infield positions. They had him play more third base, something he had gotten away from since being drafted in 2012. He worked out and played first base in the Arizona Fall League, as at-bats opened up due to an injured teammate. Wilson also took infield at shortstop regularly, though it is more likely a Descalso-like situation for him.
In our monthly in-season top 40 rankings, Wilson had risen from the 20’s to the teens after being installed in the cleanup position to start the season at Palm Beach, plating 20 runs in April, and earning the promotion to Double-A. He fell back in the rankings following the injury, however.
“To see him go down with the knee issue in Tulsa that ended his year was hard for him and obviously difficult for us,” Springfield manager Mike Shildt explained.
That is why Wilson’s return performance in Arizona was important to him moving back up in my personal rankings. His work there in both 2013 and 2014 caught the eye of many, as noted by Shildt, who was also Wilson’s skipper in last year’s AFL.
“We had some higher profile guys in (outfielder James) Ramsey and (Stephen) Piscotty going, and they had really nice fall leagues,” the manager recalled. “But Jacob was the guy on our club among the Cardinals and Diamondbacks and Rockies and Rays and any of the clubs that were on there as a part of our group (who generated the most attention).
“More internal staff members, coaches from other clubs, rovers coming in from clubs and opponents, coaches and managers, scouts would ask about Wilson. Again, he was not a high-profile guy coming in. A lot of guys would ask, ‘Who IS this guy?’ They’d like him,” Shildt noted.
With strong ties to the Memphis area, Wilson is looking forward to playing for the Triple-A Redbirds. If not at the start of the season, it should occur at some point later on. Of course, the primary goal is to reach St. Louis. That seems attainable for him, though it probably will not be soon. Ahead are not only Greg Garcia and Pete Kozma, but newcomers Dean Anna and Ty Kelly, too.
Further, Wilson did not yet need to be added to the 40-man roster this fall for Rule 5 protection. All four of the aforementioned infielders already possess those spots, so are more likely to be called up to St. Louis when needs occur. As a result, Wilson’s 2015 will likely mirror Piscotty’s 2014 – spending the entire year in further development with an MLB debut a bit further down the road.
Our 2015 top 40 series continues: To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 40 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of the latter are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.
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