Q&A: Austin Wilson, Seattle Mariners Outfield Prospect

The Seattle Mariners may have gotten the steal of the 2013 draft when they selected Austin Wilson in the second round. The 21-year-old outfielder is a five-tool player with a world of potential. And he has a Stanford pedigree.

He is also a bit of an enigma. Wilson has never quite lived up his billing: Expectations have been sky high since he was dubbed a potential first-round pick coming out of high school. He hit .295 in three collegiate seasons, but the 6-foot-5, 245-pound right-handed hitter remains more of a work-in-progress than a burgeoning superstar.

Wilson needs to rebound from an up-and-down campaign that has some doubting his future. He missed more than a month of his junior year due to an elbow injury; and in 56 games with Seattle’s short-season affiliate, the Everett AquaSox, he hit a lackluster .242/.319/.414.

Wilson talked about his hitting approach — and his introduction to pro ball — late in the minor league season.


Wilson on adjusting to professional baseball:
“The biggest adjustment was probably the speed of the game. It’s quicker than college, plus I hadn’t seen live pitching for about a month and a half. It took me a couple of weeks to get up to game speed. I started off hitting something like .080 and I’d never struggled like that in my life. I began to feel more comfortable after that, but it took me awhile to get out of that slump.

“At Stanford, on a Friday night in the Pac-12, you’ll see a good pitcher. Here, you’ll see guys like that every single day. You have guys throwing in the 90s with good off-speed. You get used to it, but when you first get out there it’s a real adjustment.

“I’d definitely say the culture is different, but it’s nothing you can’t adapt to. I’m fitting in just fine. There’s no animosity between anyone, or anything like that. It’s just people hanging out and enjoying baseball.”

On his hitting approach:
“I think hitting is both an art and a science. Ideally, you figure out ways to beat the pitcher from a technological standpoint. You kind of analyze little things here and here and here. But then, once you’re in the box, it’s just you versus the pitcher. It‘s more of an art from that standpoint.

“You try to simplify hitting as much as possible. You’re trying to put the bat on the ball. When hitters are struggling, their minds are often a big factor. You want to go up there and just swing the bat. If you over-think, you’re going to be in trouble.

“I think you need to understand your mechanics — there’s a foundation to everyone’s swing — but there are some days your body feels good, and there are other days it doesn’t feel good. Maybe you don’t have your legs up there, or your hands aren’t as fast. All you can do is get in the box and compete.”

On maturing as a hitter: “In the past year and a half, I’ve probably become more aggressive. I’m taking more of that mentality. As for my mechanics, in terms of my legs and my hands, I think I’ve made my swing shorter and quicker. But I’d say the biggest thing is that I’ve become more aggressive.

“You can be aggressive and patient at the same time. It’s a matter of being smart with your aggression. Don’t go up there and hack at balls you can’t drive. If you see your pitch, put a good swing on it, and if that turns into a hit, so be it. If you’re confident and aggressive in the box — if you have confidence and a good approach — that correlates to getting on base more. At times the ball will go over the fence.”

On baseball intelligence and learning the game:
“There are different things you can analyze. You’re trying to be smart, but at the same time, you don’t want to let your head get in the way. I watch the game, and I watch MLB hitters and try to correlate what they do to my own game. Just watching and observing is a key tool.”

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

5 Responses to “Q&A: Austin Wilson, Seattle Mariners Outfield Prospect”

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  1. Shankbone says:

    1.7MM overslot isn’t necessarily a steal, you have to consider what else was there at the pick. A true steal might be the Giants picking his teammate Brian Ragira 3 rounds later for 415K. They are pretty similar players.

    Wilson seems like a thoughtful young man, and has a lot of talent. I wonder what would have been if he had signed instead of gone to Stanford. But that’s off the table now.

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    • Shankbone says:

      To flesh out the Ragira comp, in the same league he put up 263/371/391 while playing the OF. Everybody thought Ragira would be limited to 1B. The Gigantes said no, he’ll go to the corner OF. Its a pretty established debate that a lot of scouts like Ragira more than Wilson. At 1/4 the cost, plus the opportunity cost to pick up other prospects earlier, I have to agree. Ragira has really good hands and bat speed. We’ll see how the Stanford bat stigma treats both these lads.

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  2. Ryan says:

    cardinals almost had him signed out of high school a few years ago, too.

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  3. Balthazar says:

    ” . . . [T]he stealof the 2013 draft.” That is exactly what I had Austin Wilson figured for going into draft day, and I was extremely pleased my org pulled him in. As an all-around package, he was and is to me in the top 5 in that draft, maybe the best postion player in the long run. As for his swing and results before turning pro . . . 5th round at best. Wilson has a lot of adjustments to make in his swing, but he knew that, knows it, and put in a lot of work in Everett over the summer reinventing that swing. By the end of the season, he was the best hitter on his squad, despite his legitimately dreadful start (for the reasons he mentioned). Getting a talent like that in the 2nd round is a huge steal. Signing a talent like that for $1.7M is a steal—if he develops. But that’s true of every player signed, there are adjustments to be made.

    The Mariners getting D. J. Peterson at 1.12, and then playing the poker to be there for Austin Wilson in the 2nd round was beautiful, I hand it to Tom McNamara for sussing out the field. We’ll look back on the _dozen_ high school pitchers taken from teh mid-1st round, supplemental, and upper 2nd ahead of Wilson in years to come and roll our eyes “What were those guys thinking . . . ?”

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  4. maqman says:

    I liked his signing by the Mariners but he did disappoint me initially at Everett. He ended his season well however and I’m looking forward to seeing how he does next season. D. J. Peterson took off like a rocket but got a broken jaw by being hit by a pitch. Consequently Wilson will have a chance to close the distance between them with as good start in spring training and next season. He’s an impressive young man and I have high hopes for him.

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