Sunday, May 16, 2010

Giants 2010 Draft Prospect Spotlight: Austin Wilson, OF, Harvard-Westlake HS

With less than a month remaining until the MLB Amateur Draft 2010, I figured it would be nice to take a look at who the Giants could be looking at taking in this year's MLB Draft.

The past few years, the Giants have really made a splash in terms of picks. In 2007, they selected Madison Bumgarner (10th overall), Tim Alderson (22nd overall) and Wendell Fairley (29th overall) in the first round. In 2008, the Giants selected Buster Posey fifth overall (and gave him the largest signing bonus in club history at $6.2 million). Last year, Zach Wheeler went to the Giants at sixth overall.

How are those guys doing? Well, Alderson is gone and Fairley isn't doing so hot (though rumor has it he was drafted in the first round simply because he wasn't going to cost a lot to sign in comparison to other first rounders), but for the most part, General Manager Brian Sabean has done well these past few drafts. Bumgarner and Posey are close to MLB-ready, and Wheeler has shown some promise in Augusta (though he has been a little inconsistent...but that's to be expected from a kid right out of high school).

So what about this year's draft? Who is Sabean and the Giants scouting department looking at? The Giants have a much lower draft pick than in years past (No. 24), so it won't be as easy for the Giants to nab a Posey or Bumgarner considering their draft position. However, draft position isn't everything, and it isn't impossible to think that the Giants can nab a diamond in the rough this year.

In the coming weeks, I'll take some time to look at prospects whom the Giants may select with the 24th pick this season. The first guy I'm going to look at is Austin Wilson, an outfielder from Harvard Westlake High School in Los Angeles. Wilson, according to the blog MLB Bonus Baby, an MLB draft blog, has the Giants taking Wilson in their latest mock draft. (If you haven't checked out MLB Bonus Baby, definitely do so. It's probably the best MLB Draft blog out there.)

Why Giants Fans Should Know About Wilson

Wilson is immensely talented and considering the Giants need for offense in their system, he fits the bill nicely. Sure, the Giants are stacked at Double-A with guys like Thomas Neal, Roger Kieschnick, Darren Ford, Nick Noonan, Conor Gillaspie, Brandon Crawford and Tyler LaTorre, but when you look beyond that, things get a little more dicey.

Brandon Belt, Juan Perez and Francisco Peguero look promising in San Jose, and Ehire Adrianza sure has talent (though it is yet to be seen at the plate), but other than that, there isn't a lot of offensive power or potential going on in the Giants' California League club. In the South Atlantic League, Sharlon Schoop and Luke Anders have been solid this year, but bigger names like Chris Dominguez, Hector Sanchez, Tommy Joseph, and Evan Crawford haven't been as spectacular as Giants fans hoped going into the 2010 season.

Wilson, an outfielder who has made a commitment to Stanford University, not only will get an opportunity to shine in the Giants system, but certainly could have an impact as early as his rookie season.

Much like Neal, Ford and even Fairley, the prep prospect from Los Angeles has a lot of tools and skills as a player. Wilson's plus qualities seem to be his arm and his power. Last year, in 23 games as a junior at Harvard-Westlake, he hit .543 with five home runs, 29 RBI and scored 33 runs. His impact as a junior was so immense that he was the subject of a profile piece on ESPN Rise in February.

Keith Law has also jumped on the Wilson bandwagon, calling Wilson "probably the best prospect" in attendance at the Southern California Invitational in February. Why would Law say that? Watch him hit and you can see the reason behind Law's vote of confidence.

Physically, Wilson is a specimen. Currently, he is listed at  6'4 200 pounds, and he plays in a very competitive baseball environment in Southern California. However, it is not just all brawn with this kid. Wilson apparently has great personality and is very coachable according to scouts. Additionally, he has a strong GPA at Harvard-Westlake, which happens to be a very competitive academic school, and he was accepted to Stanford. Even for athletes, that is not an easy feat to do.

According to his scouting report on, Wilson draw comparisons to Michael Taylor, Vlad Guerrero and John Mayberry Jr. According to MLB Fantasy Prospects writer Lawrence Dushenski, Wilson seems to be comparable to Moises Alou (a former Giant).

Whatever player you want to compare him to, this is certain: Wilson certainly has the mold of a future MLB player.

Why Giants Fans Should Be Skeptical of Wilson

First off, players with lots of tools in the Wilson-mold are very hit or miss. For the most part, they take a lot of time to develop and, as we have seen from guys like Fairely, rarely live up to as advertised. Wilson, despite his athleticism and strength, suffers from the same problems a lot of "tools" prospects suffer from: lack of plate discipline and pitch recognition, and a lot of his skills are still in need of refinement.

The biggest concern though may simply be his draft status. A smart kid with educated parents, Wilson isn't a lock to sign even if he is drafted in the first round. After all, Wilson could be playing for a very sturdy baseball program in Stanford, and he could use the college coaching and the time to better refine his skills. Hence, considering Wilson's signing status is so uncertain, the Giants may pass on him, simply because they do not want to get burned by wasting a first round pick on a guy who is dead set on playing college baseball.

Verdict on Wilson

Personally, I really like what I see from Wilson. The guy is an incredible physical specimen and can seriously hit for power. Just watching him slam that home run at Wrigley with a wooden bat was a sight to be seen. Also, he seems to have a good, level head on his shoulders, which I think can go a long way.

Yes, he needs to polish up his skills. Yes, he is still far away from being MLB-ready, but the Giants have a good history of drafting guys with tools (Fred Lewis for example). If Wilson is serious in terms of progressing to the Major League level, then I would have no problem with Sabean and the Giants pulling the trigger on him if he is available at No. 24.

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