"Splitsville" is a series of articles on the Nationals' prospects that we'll be doing throughout their minor league careers. In version one/chapter one (v1.1) of Thomas Wilson, we'll look how he did at home versus the road, how he pitched with runners in scoring position, and more, while pitching for the New Orleans Zephyrs.
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Late Round Pick: Left-handed reliever Thomas Wilson was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 16th round of the 2004 MLB Draft out of Catawba College and made just seven appearances out the Vermont Expos in his professional debut that same summer. The 23-year old North Carolina native was one of the more consistent relievers for the Savannah Sand Gnats in 2005, opening some eyes in the Nationals' organization.
Bombed By Bombers: Thomas Wilson had a very solid season in his first test in the South Atlantic League, posting a 3.82 ERA in 45 relief appearances with the Savannah Sand Gnats. But it could have an even better year if Wilson had not figured out his kryptonite, the Greenville Bombers (Red Sox affiliate).
Wilson gave up a total of 14 earned runs in five relief appearances against the Bombers for a 12.60 ERA against them in '05. In fact, 46.7% of all his earned runs in 2005 came off of the Greenville bats. Wilson's ERA against the rest of the entire South Atlantic League was 2.37, which means nobody will be happier to get promoted than Wilson next season.
Blue Skies In Grayson: Thomas Wilson's home ERA (2.23) was over three runs better in comparison to his road ERA (5.50). Of course, as noted above, the Greenville Bombers had a lot to do with that this past season. 13 of his 14 earned rns served up to the Bombers came on the road, which was four more earned runs than he gave up in 21 home relief appearances.
While normally certain judgements can be made from such huge disparities in a pitcher's home versus road splits, it is uncommon for just one team being the main culprit. It is true that Wilson enjoyed a lot of success at Grayon Stadium, home of the Savannah Sand Gnats. But we'll see if Wilson has the same type of differences in his home-road splits in 2006 to see if there's a trend developing.
Lefty Specialist? If his 2005 performance was any indication, Thomas Wilson could wind up being a valuable left-handed specialist out of the Nationals' bullpen someday, at minimum. While he did an adequate job against right-handed batters, limiting them to a .287 average, the bottom line was he was dominant against left-handed batters in the South Atlantic League.
Wilson handcuffed lefties with a .163 batting average in 2005, showing the type of dominance against them that shouts out left-handed specialist. It is too early in his development to label him as such already, but it is a nice attribute to have in his back pocket.
Getting That First Batter: The Greenville Bombers weren't his only weakness apparently this past season. Wilson had trouble facing batters leading off an inning. While there wasn't much of a difference in the opponents success hitting off of him with nobody on base (.250) and with runners on base (.252), Wilson allowed men leading off an inning to bat .281 off of him, his highest average among his situational splits.
To be a successful relief pitching prospect, Wilson has to keep the leadoff hitters off base and work quick innings. Once he learns to do that, his place in the Nationals' organization on the relief pitching prospects' depth chart could rise rather quickly.
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