Brian Wilson got himself noticed at LSU while establishing himself as one of the nation’s top starting pitchers. As a sophomore in 2002, Baseball America noted him as the #2 prospect for the then year-away 2003 draft. But things went south in 2003, as Wilson’s arm had problems and he had to go in for Tommy John Surgery in April and miss the college season in 2003.
Despite the surgery, the Giants took a chance on him in the 24th round at the age of 21. Most expected Wilson to go back to school for his senior year and try to improve his draft status (and bonus), but Wilson signed anyway and waited for 2004 to roll around.
When it did roll around, Wilson struggled. His velocity was below the 90’s he had used in college, and he was unable to throw his hard curveball, which had been his best pitch in college. He later noted that “People wanted to face me so they could raise their stats a few points.” Wilson went 2-5 working mostly as a reliever, striking out just 41 and walking 22 in 57.1 innings en route to a 5.34 ERA.
The season was a wake up call to Wilson, who changed his diet and worked out harder in the offseason. He busted out of the gate in Augusta, going 5-1 with a 0.82 ERA in 26 games, and earning 13 saves. He went to Norwich, where he had a 0.57 ERA and 8 saves in 15 games, and then ended up in Fresno, where his ERA bloomed a bit to 3.97 in 9 games, but still ended the season as a top prospect. He did have a 6.11 ERA in the AFL, though it was just his second full season in the pros.
Overall in 2005, he had a 1.35 ERA and 21 saves, striking out 65 while walking 20 in 60 innings.
Suddenly a top prospect (Ranked #6 by SFDugout.com in the offseason Giants Top 50 Prospects), Wilson earned an invite to Spring Training, where he gave up no runs on 3 hits and 3 walks with 2 strikeouts in 4 games. Wilson also made a very un-Brian Wilson like singing performance as Billy Idol in the much bally-hooed ‘Giants Idol’ event during the Spring. Despite his performances both pitching and musical, he went back to Fresno, where his curveball became a big part of his repetoire once more. Though he was overshadowed somewhat by top prospect Merkin Valdez’s move to the bullpen, Wilson had a 1-1 record with 1 save on a 2.45 ERA in 7 games at Fresno this season. He had struck out 9 and walked 5.
Wilson’s reputation has soared as his velocity has returned, and he reportedly went as high as 97 with his fastball in AA Norwich. Healthy again, he sits well at 95, though he can probably hump it up a bit when he needs. However, his best pitch is his power curve, which comes in hard at the mid 80’s and bites down strong. His ability to harness that pitch and throw it with control will be what makes him or breaks him. He has shown excellent control with both pitches, and with both the 2 seam and 4 seam grip on the fastball
Wilson also throws a slider, which has become something more of a show-me pitch that he doesn’t always have full control of. He also began developing a changeup late last year, but it has not arrived yet.
FUTURE:Brian Wilson’s stuff may not fit the Fastball-Slider combination that has at times ruled the closer ranks, but his power curveball may be just the pitch that can put him over the top. One thing that Wilson has shown, despite a very personable and joking mentality, is the ability to get on the mound and focus on what needs to be done. He throws first pitch strikes, and has gone a long ways towards learning how to pitch to hitters and not just throw things by them. Though a lot of attention has gone towards Valdez and his possible future as a closer, Wilson has the experience, the mindset and the stuff to put himself into the role in the next 2-3 years.
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