Position: Left-handed Pitcher
Wilk was selected in the 11th round of the 2009 draft by the Tigers, signing quickly for a modest bonus as a non-premium draft pick. As with most collegiate draftees, Wilk was initially assigned to Oneonta of the New York-Penn League to make his professional debut for the Tigers.
Working as one of the O-Tigers top starters, Wilk led off seven games for the squad, finishing with a 2-0 record and a dominating 1.45 ERA over 37 1/3 innings. Over that span, he allowed just 23 hits and five walks, while striking out nearly a batter per inning. Not surprisingly, Wilk was named TigsTown's Oneonta Pitcher of the Month for July, earning his first professional award.
The Tigers quickly promoted Wilk to West Michigan to aid in their playoff drive, and his success followed him there in a big way. The lanky left-hander posted nearly identical numbers to his time in Oneonta, with a 2-1 record, 1.49 ERA, 30 hits, two walks, and 33 strikeouts, over seven starts and 36 1/3 innings. That type of continued performance again earned him TigsTown's Pitcher of the Month award, this time with the Whitecaps.
Wilk's honors did not stop there, as the Professional Baseball Scouts of Southern California named him the FirstYear Minor League Pitcher of the Year; an award given to the top first-year pro pitcher from the region.
None of Wilk's pure stuff stands out on the surface, but the sum of the parts if intriguing to say the least. His fastball is fringe-average from the left side, routinely sitting at 87-88 throughout his starts, and touching 89-90 on occasion. His fastball command to all parts of the strike zone is exceptional, and allows his fastball to play up as an average pitch. Wilk will mix a four-seam, two-seam and cut fastball in at various times.
Wilk also throws a curveball and change-up are that are generally fringy offerings, but flash as average to solid-average pitches at times. He commands both pitches well, which helps their quality, and both pitches show some promise of being legitimate average pitches with more experience and consistency.
Despite being a little short on raw stuff, Wilk works the zone well, sets up hitters, and understands the game from all angles. He is a heady player with an excellent baseball IQ and a strong work ethic. The organization has indicated that they will look to aid Wilk in adding more strength and bulk to his frame, in hopes of boosting his velocity some over the next year or two. He has the frame to handle 15-20 added pounds.
With decent, if unspectacular stuff across the board and an excellent approach to pitching, Wilk could max out as a #3 starter if things break properly for him and he sees some gains on his fastball, maybe in a Mark Mulder mold. If his stuff stays where it is now, he may be relegated more to a bullpen role where he can let it fly for a batter or two in a situational setting.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG SS-A
Wilk has a clean delivery with good arm action and repeatable mechanics. He has yet to experience any arm trouble or other major injury. As the Wilk and the Tigers look to add strength and bulk to his frame, his mechanics will be watched closely to make sure they remain clean and consistent, but all current signs are positive in terms of future health.
Wilk will enter minor league spring training with an excellent chance to start the year as a key member of the Lakeland rotation. His command and savvy could allow him to continue to eat A-ball hitters alive, and he could continue his dramatic success from 2009.
Some scouts harbor concerns about his projection, and fear he may simply be another in a long line of fringy hurlers to succeed at Oneonta and/or West Michigan; following the lineage laid out by guys like Chris Cody, Jon Connolly, and Calvin Chipperfield. Success in the Florida State League won't close the book on these concerns, as Wilk is going to have to prove himself at every level of the minor leagues.
Don't be shocked if he sees time in Erie at some point late in the 2010 season. If his success continues (even if not at the dominating rates he showed in 2009), Wilk could be on a 2012 timetable for Detroit, but there are some significant obstacles to be overcome before thoughts of him on the Detroit pitching staff become serious.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.