Position: Left-handed Pitcher
It's been nothing but smooth sailing for Wilk since signing as an 11th round pick in 2009. After pitching absolutely lights out across two levels in his debut summer, it was hard to imagine that type of success continuing.
In seven starts at both Oneonta and West Michigan in 2009, Wilk posted ERAs of 1.45 and 1.49, respectively. He allowed well under a hit per inning and over eight strikeouts per nine innings at both stops.
Some of the numbers changed, but the success remained for Wilk in 2010. Pushed to High-A Lakeland for the start of the 2010 season, Wilk made 24 starts for the Flying Tigers, and finished with a 9-5 record and 3.01 ERA. He again allowed less than a hit per inning, and continued to shy away from issuing free passes. His strikeout rate fell from 8.2 per nine innings in 2009, to 6.3 per nine innings in the FSL.
The Tigers promoted Wilk to Double-A Erie near the end of the season, and he sparkled in three starts for the Seawolves. A 2-0 mark and 1.14 ERA are just the beginning, as Wilk allowed only ten hits in 23 2/3 innings, while walking five and fanning 14.
Diving into how Wilk gets the job done is where the discussion surrounding him gets far more interesting. To put it simply, the stuff isn't there to match the dominating numbers he's posted to this point.
Wilk's fastball sits consistently at 85-87 mph and he can scrape 89 once in a while. He gets some sink on his fastball and can induce grounders and keep the ball in the yard. Wilk has arguably the best present command among Tigers prospects, and that helps his fastball play up from well below-average to simply below-average.
Wilk's change-up is the best in the system, and he can work it to both sides of the plate with regularity. The pitch has some sink and fade to go along with good deception generated by keeping his arm speed up, and most scouts give it a 55 grade. His curveball is a fringe-average pitch with some potential to improve. It's a solid breaker that is a good change of pace.
To go along with his arsenal, Wilk has exceptional makeup and mound presence. He competes extremely well and won't back down while on the hill. He has spent the off-season working diligently to improve his arm strength and increase his explosiveness and overall strength through lifting.
It is difficult to project a guy with his velocity and without a true plus pitch in his bag of tricks, as a big league starter. Most scouts see a lefty reliever with some potential to be a swingman or spot starter.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG A+
Despite his slight frame, Wilk has proven to be quite durable, logging nearly 170 innings in his first professional summer. He has a clean arm action and repeatable mechanics.
Wilk was extended an invitation to Major League Spring Training, which speaks as much to his success in 2010 as it does his long term big league prospects.
Though he makes up for it by keeping his walks down, the precipitous decline in Wilk's strikeout rate in 2010 isn't a good sign. He fell all the way to 6.3 per nine innings at Lakeland, and then again tumbled to 5.3 hitters per nine in Erie. That type of swing-and-miss rate leaves very little margin for error and will require his command to be exceptional every time out, and for his secondary pitches to take a step forward.
At this point, expecting Wilk to be anything more than a solid reliever or LOOGY is a bit much. He's maxed out his raw stuff and even modest improvements in other areas aren't going to change his profile. That said, given his present skill set he could help in the Detroit bullpen as soon as this season. Once he gets a chance in the big leagues, he will have the potential to carve out a role that suits him.
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