It is always hard to do the first post in the series, but Cubs prospect DJ Wilson makes things a little easier. Now 21 years old, the toolsy outfielder should be headed up a level to high-A Myrtle Beach for 2018 to begin his fourth professional season. I expect to see him make a jump in his development next year.
Ht: 5-8, Wt: 177
Draft: Round 4, 2015
Prep: Canton South, Canton, OH
Originally Committed to Vanderbilt
2017 in review
After struggling with injuries the first half of the year, Wilson came into his own after the break. July saw his best performance, as he hit .284 with 7 home runs and 21 RBI en route to being named the organization’s player of the month. On the whole, his season stats are not impressive, mainly due to inconsistency. He hit .159 in April, the got up to .263 in May before hitting the DL after 16 games. After returning in the second half, he hit .245 with a .333 on base percentage with 9 total home runs at South Bend.
The key to understanding why Wilson should break out in 2018 is seeing him in person. One of the things I like to watch for in a player is their ability to track the ball into the catcher’s mitt. On the surface, that may not seem like a big deal, but that tells me how well a hitter is seeing the ball. It also displays the batter’s knowledge of the strike zone.
Wilson did both very well every time I saw him this past season. His inability to use the whole diamond efficiently was evident as he pulled 47 percent of batted balls. When he made contact, he tended to get the ball up in the air, hitting 46.7 percent fly balls, 37.4 percent ground balls, and only 15 percent line drives. Those stats need to even out more, but if he can consistently square the ball up, his career trajectory will head steadily upward.
While Wilson did have a big leg kick early in the year, he toned that down as the season went on. All signs are pointing in the right direction for him to turn it up a level.
Here’s what MLB.com had to say about Wilson’s potential:
While Wilson will need time to develop at the plate, he could become a .275 hitter with 15 homers and 30 steals on an annual basis. He has a compact left-handed swing and generates sneaky power with his ability to backspin the ball from center to right field. He makes a lot of hard contact but is still in the process of solving left-handed pitching.
Leveling up for 2018
I would like to see more than just glimpses of Wilson’s ability to hit. I know he can play defense and he has the potential for power, but he has yet to hit for average at any point in his career. A consistent monthly split between .260 to .280 with a couple home runs per month would be great. It’s not going to be easy in the pitcher-friendly Carolina League, but sustained good health and further physical and mental maturation should help a great deal.
I’d like to see Wilson hit at least 15 home runs next year and I’m interested to see where manager Buddy Bailey slots him in the lineup. Despite hitting all over the place in 2017, his speed and potential pop make for a better fit down in the six or seven spot. Considering some of the thumpers that will be in front of him with the Pelicans, that could be a given.
Wilson now has a two-to-three year window during which to begin to fulfill his potential. 2018 is Year One in that timeframe so his performance and progress definitely bear following..