As I wrote yesterday, the 2012 CCBL is likely to be remembered as the year of the home run and no team better exemplifies that than the Harwich Mariners. Rising junior outfielders Phil Ervin (Samford) and Austin Wilson (Stanford) are two of the three league leaders in home runs with 8 and 5, respectively. I will tackle Ervin another day but for now I'd like to take a look at Wilson. Austin Wilson was considered one of the most talented hitters in the 2010 draft but slipped to the Cardinals in the 12th round because teams questioned whether he would sign. The St. Louis Cardinals took a worthwhile gamble and gave their best effort to sign Wilson but, in the end, he chose to follow through with his commitment to Stanford. The right-handed hitter put up a line of .311/.348/.423 his freshman year with 7 doubles, 5 home runs, 7 walks, and 56 strikeouts in 196 at-bats. Last summer he helped Harwich win the league championship despite a pedestrian overall line of .213/.271/.303 with 8 doubles, 1 home run, 7 walks, and 30 strikeouts in only 122 at-bats. His performance caused me to write the following before the league's All-Star Game:
There may not be a player with a wider spread between his current ability and his ceiling than Harwich outfielder Austin Wilson (Stanford). Since I labeled Roache a physical freak, I’m not sure what to call Wilson as he bests Roache by a few inches. He’s enormous and so physically gifted that it’s impossible not to get excited about his potential. The ball jumps off his bat more than any player on the Cape but he’s still so raw. He consistently drops his back shoulder and that doesn’t allow him to fully tap into his power potential. He’s my pick to win the Home Run Derby tomorrow night. Look out Lansdowne Street.
Austin Wilson followed up a slightly disappointing freshman season with a significantly better sophomore year. His line across 221 at-bats of .285/.389/.493, 12 doubles, 2 triples, 10 home runs, 24 walks, 44 strikeouts, and 7 stolen bases was a marked improvement. Now he's back on the Cape and is part of an absolutely loaded Mariners lineup. He's off to a tremendous start although it's worth noting the it's still early in the season so it's important to not get overly excited or upset by a single player's line.
If you have not had an opportunity to watch Harwich take batting practice, what are you waiting for? It's worth the early arrival to hear the audible contrast in Harwich and their opponent's BP. Apples and oranges. Cats and dogs. Night and day. The ball makes a different sound coming off their bats than everybody else and the loudest of them all is Austin Wilson. I've watched a lot of BP and Wilson tends to be a more methodical than most with his approach during BP. As is customary, he'll start with a few bunts, then shoot line drives through the infield, followed by line drives from gap to gap, followed by one long and loud home run after the other, and that's usually followed by me taking a moment to make sure I did not park my car anywhere the landing spot of his numerous bombs. I'm willing to put his raw power up against anybody else on the Cape. On the 20-80 scale, it's an easy 70, if not more. Impressive? You bet.
Wilson generates his power from his enormously athletic size as he stands at 6-5 and 240 pounds. He actually looks more fit this summer than last. If the team did not wear numbered jerseys and I asked you to find Wilson on the field, you would not have a problem picking him out because he looks more physical than anybody else on the diamond. He uses his lower half quite well during his swing and takes a small step during his stride into the ball before firing his hips. His swing can get a little long. His bat speed is not overly quick and his bat doesn't stay as long in the zone as you'd like to see. As is the case with many hitters, he struggles recognizing offspeed pitches. Wilson is not quick out of the box as he clocks 4.6-4.7 seconds down the line with heavy feet.
In the outfield, Wilson has more than enough arm to play right field, as his throws stay low to the ground with plenty of carry and accuracy. His arm profiles as another potential 70-grade tool. He reads the ball well off the bat but his range forces me to question if he'll end up in left field sooner rather than later.
Austin Wilson remains the highest ceiling position player on the Cape this season. He alone makes BP worth attending. He's the type of player where fans should plan their trips to the bathroom around his at-bats. He's the type of player that with a runner on second and two outs you beg for a base-hit to be hit to right field so he can fire his cannon of a right arm. But, he's also human, this is still baseball, and there are still many holes in his game. While he's an athletic, albeit a tad slow, 6-foot-5 now, he'll need to work even harder than his peers to maintain his condition as his body matures. The likelihood of Wilson reaching his ceiling will be determined by how he learns from and adjusts to the game. If he continues to make adjustments and has a strong junior year for Stanford, he could very well be the first pick in next year's draft. For now, let's enjoy watching him the rest of the season.