Giants Top 50: #3 - Brian Wilson

In 2003, the Giants took a risk with a starter who wasn't going to pitch for at least a year because of Tommy John surgery. Here's to risks. Although he had a major league debut hampered by an unrelated injury and a high ERA, there is probably no rookie who will have as much of a chance to make an impact in San Francisco this year. #3 is Brian Wilson!

#3 - Brian Wilson
Date of Birth: 03/16/1982 Position: P Height: 6'1" Weight: 205 Bats: R Throws: R
Acquired: Drafted in the 24th Round (#723 Overall) of the 2003 Draft
2006 Stats
Team-Level W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG G/F
San Jose - High-A 0 0 9.00 1 0 0 1.00 1 1 1 0 1 1 .200 1.00
Fresno - Triple-A 1 3 2.89 24 0 7 28.0 20 9 9 2 14 30 .202 1.45
San Francisco - MLB 2 3 5.52 30 0 1 29.1 31 19 18 1 20 23 .281 1.23

Early on in Spring Training this year, San Francisco Giants pitcher Armando Benitez has been trying to rehab his arthritic knees, but even moreso, his tarnished image.  However, his gruff attitude showed through when asked if he would be the Giants closer in 2007.  He replied, "Who else they got?"

What they've got is some good vibrations from Brian Wilson.

It's hard not to throw in the puns when talking about Wilson, but it does do him a disservice.  (Although I admit I was heartily disappointed he didn't pitch for the Giants' representative team in Hawaii Winter Baseball, the Waikiki BeachBoys.)  Wilson is not worth knowing just because of some naming similarities with other celebrities.  He's a bonafide star in the making.

Wilson made his major league debut on April 23rd, coming into the pitcher's nightmare known as Coors Field, and he struck out 2 in 2 scoreless innings pitched.  However, he strained his oblique muscle, and missed a month of time.  When he came back, he was knocked up a bit by major league hitters, and had some control issues.

That may put a damper on the enthusiasm about his future, but it shouldn't.  He's not perfect yet, but Wilson has all the tools to be the next great Giants closer.

Wilson was a starter for Louisiana State University, but had to have Tommy John surgery before the 2003 draft.  The Giants still took a risk on him, picking him in the 24th round despite knowing he'd miss the better part of a year before he could start his professional career.  When he did, the Giants moved him to relief, a role he has since state he prefers.

As a starter, Wilson was a four pitch pitcher who lived off his curveball.  However, in relief, Wilson developed his slider further, and now, it's his best pitch.  It's sharp and hard, and lives in the low-90's.  One publication said that it's reminiscent of a certain guy most Giants fans have missed ever since his injury and retirement: Robb Nen.

Wilson combines that pitch with a fastball that has been improving since his surgery.  In his meteoric rise through three levels of the minors in 2005, Wilson was hitting 95 consistently and was up to 96.  In his major league debut, he hit 98, and has been up there with some regularity.

That pitch combination gives Wilson a devastating classic closer's pitch combo.  Wilson has used his curveball on occasion since his surgery, but it hasn't found its way back into his repetoire.  He has been working on adding a changeup, which is improving but not yet where it needs to be to have a real impact in the majors.  If he can get it there, however, it'll be one more weapon to help Wilson out.

Wilson's major concern in 2006 was the loss of his fastball control.  While his oblique injury probably had a sizable impact on his control, it would be remiss of us to ignore that he had 5 walks in 7.1 innings in Fresno before his injury.  The good news is that Wilson hasn't struggled with his command consistently in the pros.  He had low walk totals in 2005 up until the end of the season in Fresno, and owns a rate of 3.51 walks every 9 innings overall in the minors (his rate was over 6 in the majors).

Wilson will probably never be a true control artist, and Giants fans should be warned, walks will be something they'll have to deal with.  But Wilson shouldn't walk players at a rate that will truly hurt him, just enough to give Giants fans nervous stomachs when he pitches.

After all, time has helped some Giants fans forget that Nen had a 3.27 BB/9IP rate in the majors.  For comparison's sake, Nen's minor league rate was 6 walks for every 9 innings pitched.

Something that was a bigger concern after the 2005 season was how Wilson was getting his outs, and was getting hit.  Wilson's strikeout rate jumped as he was promoted, but as his strikeout rate jumped, Wilson went from being an extreme ground ball pitcher to an extreme flyball pitcher.  One major worry was that if Wilson continued to give up balls in the air, it would hurt him in the majors, where fly balls become home runs a lot easier.  Wilson evened out, with a 1.43 ground out/fly out ratio in Fresno, and then getting a nearly identical 1.45 groundball/flyball ratio in the majors.  Wilson gave up only 1 home run in 30 innings in the majors, and although he did allow 4 doubles and 2 triples in addition to that, a 1.45 G/F ratio is respectable, and Wilson should be able to continue relying on his defense to help him get the outs his slider doesn't.

The future is very bright for Wilson.  He has all the tools a major league closer needs.  He has a good head on his shoulders, and while he still has things to learn about the game, he's making huge strides.  Wilson will turn 25 during Spring Training, and his birthday gift may very well be giving the Giants the final reasons they need to trade Benitez.  If he's not the closer for the Giants at the start of the 2007 season, expect him to have taken the role by the end of the year.  And even if he takes some bumps, it'll be worth it down the road, because he could be doing the job for a long, long time.



Have any questions about these prospects, or perhaps some we haven't named? SFDugout.com will be answering your questions throughout this series! Send your questions to sfdugout@yahoo.com!

Check out the other prospects at the Top 50 Prospects Index!



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