2010 MLB Draft Q&A: Austin Wilson

Ranking amongst the most physically gifted players in the entire 2010 draft, Austin Wilson has been drawing scouts to Harvard-Westlake School in droves. We sat down with the slugging outfielder to discuss his feelings on the draft, how he dealt with a serious back injury, and what it was like to hit one of the most impressive homeruns in showcase history.

I will be running a new interview with one of the best MLB draft prospects 2010 has to offer each Sunday and Wednesday up until June, and you can click here to find an up to date archive of them all.

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Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Just to start things off are you still 6'4", 200 lbs?

Austin Wilson: I'm actually 6'4", 227 lbs.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: 227 lbs? Wow, where did all that weight come from?

Austin Wilson: It's come from this specialized weight training I do in Santa Barbara. I've been going there for two years now and working on my explosiveness, power, speed, and agility, so that place has gotten me about 20 lbs bigger and dropped my 60 down from a 7.0 to about a 6.7.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Since you're built like a safety now, I figure it's only appropriate to ask if you play any other sports besides baseball?

Austin Wilson: [laughs] Nah, just baseball. In middle school I played football and soccer, but I stopped right before 9th grade because I realized that I could focus on baseball and do a lot with it.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You go to Harvard-Westlake, the same high school as one of our favorite recent Yankee draft picks, Nik Turley. What can you tell Yankee fans about your former teammate?

Austin Wilson: The thing about Nik is that I've always admired him because he's been a hard worker and I always respected that about him. I saw him as kind of a big brother in a way, because he worked very hard and took baseball very seriously, and that kind of rubbed off on me. He's a great kid and comes from a nice family, so it was an honor to play with him.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What is it specifically that drew you to Stanford?

Austin Wilson: My mom actually went to Stanford and I've been to that campus a lot, and the whole extraordinary network and experience that Stanford brings, plus great baseball, is unbeatable. To have the opportunity to go play there was phenomenal for me, and I was blessed to get an offer from them. As soon as that happened I worked to narrow down my options, and they ended up being my number one choice.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who were the other finalists?

Austin Wilson: UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, and Oregon. Those were the finalists that I was choosing from.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Touching a little bit on the academic side of things, one can read articles about you and, because of the impressive work you have done as a student in addition to your obvious baseball talents, words like "perfect" have been thrown around. Does that put any pressure on you at all?

Austin Wilson: [laughs] The perfect kid thing is kind of over-exaggerated, I mean, I thank whomever wrote that about me, but no one is perfect. I just want to try to work hard and play hard, and whatever the outcome is I'm going to be happy with it because I'm happy with the way I worked and went about my business. That's the way I was brought up – you work hard and good things will comes. That's going to happen in the classroom, that's going to happen on the baseball field, and I'm hoping that will continue to take me further and further.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How much have you thought about the draft? I talk to some guys and they say they try hard as hell not to think about it, and others say it's the last thing on their mind every night before they go to bed. Where do you stand in that spectrum?

Austin Wilson: I'd be lying if I said I never thought about it – it'll always be in my head – but I'm just trying to enjoy my senior year and be a high school kid because this experience will only happen once. I'm trying to take everything in and engulf all the different aspects of this time. Playing in front of a bunch of scouts every game and kids asking you what you're going to do, you can't really get away from it. I'm in a great position, I can go to Stanford or I can go to pro baseball, and that's a win-win situation. Kids always ask about the draft, they always tell me, "you should go! You should go and take the money," they always comment on what they think I should do. You have to get used to all that stuff because that's the position you're in, but it doesn't affect me because I've just gotten used to it.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Being a Stanford commit you've got the "signability" label automatically slapped on you. The question that arises though, is whether you are the Stanford commit that is willing to consider pro ball if the number is right and the situation is perfect, or the Standard commit that is going to school no matter what?

Austin Wilson: I'm leaving my options open right now. Pro baseball is one of my dreams, and if all the circumstances are correct and everything is perfect, I'm going to play pro baseball, but Stanford is also one of my dreams, too. It's going to be a very, very tough decision, but no, I'm not ruling out professional baseball. It's no doubt something I'd consider for sure, and because it's been a dream since I was young it'll always be a viable option.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How many teams have you heard from?

Austin Wilson: I want to say everyone, I think. I've basically met all the scouts in my area and talked with them.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How about the Yankees specifically?

Austin Wilson: Yes, I actually had dinner last night with the Yankee psychiatrist.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What was that like and how did it come up?

Austin Wilson: I think for the Yankee organization, instead of administering a test, they have someone come and talk to you in person to get a real feel of who you are rather than getting that information from an automated exam. It was kind of cool to talk to the guy and tell him my perceptions of baseball, and he'll take that back to the scouting people and they'll see what kind of guy I am.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Were the questions abstract at all, or did it seem like a normal conversation?

Austin Wilson: It wasn't really abstract, but I want to say that he asked questions where I had to prove myself – why I think I should play pro baseball, why I think I'm ready to commit to it right now – questions like that. It was basically a conversation that was also an interview, and it was pretty cool.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Can you describe yourself as a hitter to the fans out there?

Austin Wilson: People say I have quick hands that allow me to wait back in the zone longer, so instead of getting beat by balls my hands are quick enough to turn and square them up. Obviously I've been working on my weight, getting stronger, and that's helped me get more powerful and drive the ball more. In the beginning of the season I was having trouble; I was getting too handsy and trying to impress people in the stands, so I ended up pulling off and fouling off balls, but a little bit into the season I started to wait back and go the other way and that did wonders for me.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Talking a bit about your power, is it mostly pull, or does it spread to the opposite field at all?

Austin Wilson: I'm trying to develop my oppo power a bit more right now, and today I hit one out to the opposite field, so that felt kind of good. I'd probably say my power gap was left center, centerfield, around there – where I can get my hands extended and let the bat barrel go.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Where do you currently hit in the lineup?

Austin Wilson: My coach has put me at leadoff because my team wasn't producing a lot of runs and I could get on base. Basically, as soon as they walk me it kind of turns into a double because I'll steal second base – right now I think I'm at 19 or 20 steals on the season. I get more fastballs and that helps out, but it's kind of a weird change for me because I have to take more, when usually I'm a free-swinger, but it's helped with my plate recognition and how to develop at-bats.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So what about your plate discipline? What role does that play in your game now?

Austin Wilson: I think I have pretty good plate discipline, but it can go out the door when I start trying to impress people. I'll end up chasing balls in the dirt and striking myself out, and that's all on me.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Defensive assessments are sometimes not available for draft prospects, so how would you describe yourself defensively? How do you feel in the field, and are you still playing center?

Austin Wilson: Yes I am, for my high school team. My body is kind of sore and banged up from the season so it was good to get a deep tissue massage yesterday and make things well, allow me to get my speed up. Centerfield is a different throw, it's not straight-away like right field where you have both thirdbase and homeplate right in front of you, you have to get your whole body in the right direction and set your feet right. Those skills are what I'm developing right now, getting reads off the bat, making more accurate throws from center, and learning to play the position.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Speaking of your speed, where does your 60 currently stand, and how has the weight you've put on through this training program affected it?

Austin Wilson: It's actually taken it down, because right now I'm at a 6.74-6.76, something around there. I'd say that's kind of moving for my size, because when I was in the 200 lb range I wasn't slow, but it took me a long time to get going – I was right around a seven-flat, maybe 7.01-7.03. Last year I started to break 7.00, and this year it was never in the picture again.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What was it like hitting such a ridiculous bomb in the Under Armour game at Wrigley?

Austin Wilson: That was honestly such a great feeling. On the bus ride there we were talking about the pitchers we had to face because the other team's pitching was basically stacked. We had Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie, but the other team had guys like A.J. Cole, DeAndre Smelter, Karsten Whitson, and those guys are filthy. I had never actually seen Karsten Whitson pitch, and everybody was talking about how nasty he was, so I said to myself "ok, I'm just going to sit dead-red." He was having a little trouble with his control, he got me 2-1 and threw a slider that I check-swung at and brought the count to 2-2. From that point I said, "ok, if this guy throws me a fastball I'm not going to miss it," so the next pitch was a ball, and I was still sitting dead red for the last one.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Was that one of the longer homeruns you have hit with a wood bat?

Austin Wilson: Yeah, that felt pretty good. It was kind of a perfect swing, everything felt good, and as soon as I hit it I knew it was out.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: I remember watching it and thinking that a 17 year old kid had no business hitting a ball halfway up the bleachers in Wrigley with a wood bat.

Austin Wilson: [laughs] Thank you.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What kind of personality would someone who watched you play from the stands see?

Austin Wilson: I'm a guy that really gets into the game, so I'm really intense and I'll get hyped up after a good play or something like that. I like to be there for my teammates and I'm always high energy. When I get up to the plate I'm calm, but rounding the bases my adrenaline is definitely going. I'm not the guy that will throw his helmet when he strikes out, but I really get into the game and am not afraid to scream something when someone makes a great play - some of the guys call me the Kevin Garnett of baseball [laughs].

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What exactly happened with your back last year, and how is it doing now?

Austin Wilson: It happened at Perfect Game National in Minnesota, I was stealing second base and I slid in awkwardly and jammed my back. It really, really hurt and it felt weird, and the next week I had a CT-scan and they said I had a stress fracture in my back. The healing process for a stress fracture is three months of rest, so I told the doctor, "this is the biggest summer of my life and there's no way I can sit out." He told me I could play through it but that it would be really painful and could get worse, so while it didn't really alter my game, I wasn't at 100% and just had to suck it up all summer if I wanted to play.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So you were playing in the UA game with the injury?

Austin Wilson: Yeah, it happened about two months before the game at Wrigley. I stopped playing baseball right after Aflac, and that was the only rest I got. I got the injury in the middle of June, and ever since then I was full bore baseball, playing with the stress fracture. If I was healthy I felt I could have made the USA trials, but I didn't feel I was my best that week. That was a rough thing for me, but good things came out of it – I made Aflac, I hit the homerun at Wrigley field – I made the best out of it that I could.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is everything alright now, or are you still feeling it at all?

Austin Wilson: Everything is healed up now; that's why I didn't go to Jupiter and do the whole fall ball thing.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Being from the SoCal area, were you a Dodgers or Angels fan growing up?

Austin Wilson: I'm a Dodgers guy.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who are the players that you look up to for their skills or the way they play the game?

Austin Wilson: I was a huge Griffey, Jr. guy, just the way he played baseball – he was one of my idols growing up. Right now I'd say Pujols for his ability to be that good and have that presence on the field – I mean, he scares the pitcher when he's on deck and I respect that to the utmost degree. Regarding outfielders, even though he's having trouble right now, Matt Kemp is a guy I look up to because he's a big guy like me and can still move around. He's been dropping a few balls in the field lately, so I don't know what's going on in his head, but I'm a big fan of him, too.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Have you heard any comparisons from scouts?

Austin Wilson: I've never seen him play before, but people say Andre Dawson. Baseball America said I was a mix between Michael Taylor and John Mayberry, Jr., but that's all I've heard.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: If you could steal one skill from any other guy in your draft class, whose would it be, and why?

Austin Wilson: Gosh, that's a tough one… I'm probably going to say Mitchell Shifflett. He ran a 6.11 60 and that speed is something I dream of having, so I'd take that from him.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You are probably the 4th or 5th guy to answer that question with Shifflett's speed. Everyone that was there said it was just ridiculous.

Austin Wilson: Yeah, it looked like he was floating; it was a joke. [laughs] He beat the guy he was racing against by a mile, and that guy ran a 6.4, so it really showed how fast he was going. It looked effortless, and he also held an Virginia track record that we didn't know about, so everyone was like, "who is this kid?!" It seemed like he was literally flying.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who is the toughest pitcher you have faced?

Austin Wilson: Let's see, that's a tough one…I'm going to say A.J. Vanegas or A.J. Cole. Cole's slider is just beyond filthy, and I have this kind of joking beef with Vanegas. I had this new Sam Bat that I was using for Area Codes, and I'm battling him, work the count to 3-2, and feel like I'm just getting my timing right…and he just shatters my damn bat. Since then it's been this big beef that I always tell him he owes me a new bat, and he tells me it was my own fault, but it's all just fun. He's a good pitcher.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What was the end result of that at-bat?

Austin Wilson: It was a groundout, and I was especially disappointed because of the bat, but also because it was A.J., too. [laughs]

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Finally, what is it like trying to balance the pressure of these amazing opportunities with attempting to be a normal 18 year old kid?

Austin Wilson: I try to separate them into two different worlds. When I step on the baseball field it's all business, I'm out there to do my thing, make a statement, play hard, and just see what happens. When I'm not on the field I'm kind of just Austin Wilson: high school kid. I spend a lot of time hanging out with my friends being a normal high school kid. I've got a month left of high school, so I'm trying to enjoy it as much as I can.

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