After missing the 2008 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Alex Wilson has been busy re-establishing himself as a top prospect. As a freshman at Winthrop University, before his injury, most reports said Wilson featured a 91-94 mph fastball and a plus slider.
Fully recovered and at Texas A&M University, Wilson ran his fastball up to 98 mph this fall according to Baseball America. The publication pegged Wilson as the #24 ranked junior and the #26 ranked overall college prospect for the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
The 6' 1", 205 lb right-hander pitched against Rice University on February 28, 2009 at the Houston College Classic.
Game: February 28, 2009 vs. Rice University
Fastball. Wilson worked pretty comfortably in the 92-94 mph range with his fastball and occasionally a tick higher. His command came and went throughout the outing. In my notes, I wrote "command" early, only to scratch it out an inning later. In the 4th, he gave up a triple, walked two batters, and hit another. Outside of that, he was quite spectacular.
Slider. This is definitely a plus pitch. Combined with his fastball, Wilson recorded 15 of his 18 outs either on ground balls or by strikeout. The pitch has a solid, late break, and Wilson spotted it very well in this outing.
Other pitches. Wilson threw something that looked like a slow, lazy curve a few times. I haven't read any reports about a curveball from Wilson, so it's possible that this was a mistake slider or a horrible change up.
Wilson also threw his change up several times, and he admitted to Aaron Fitt that it was "probably [his] least effective pitch." It was basically a "show me" pitch, but it served its purpose.
Mechanics. Again, it looks like we have a guy who lands closed. He has a clean pick up and what is typically a very good follow through.
Wilson stays tall as he gathers himself at the top. Wilson starts to drift forward then bends his leg and gets a great forward push onto the ball of his landing foot. He drags his back foot off the rubber instead of pulling it, but his bent front leg doesn't completely stop his center of mass from moving forward.
Wilson's landing limits his hip rotation; you can see that his hips aren't square to the plate until well after pitch release. This does not cut off his shoulders, however, since he uses his trunk to drive his throwing shoulder almost directly over his front hip. Tim Lincecum has a very similar trunk flexion in his delivery.
To pick up the ball, Wilson swings his arm down, back, and up, like a pendulum swing, but he does not supinate or turn his forearm over. Wilson's elbow and hand reach shoulder height at about the same time, but he flexes his elbow as he horizontally abducts his humerus. His forearm is nearly vertical at foot plant, and that leads him to a late forearm turnover.
Because he drives his shoulder straight forward over his front hip, he does a good job of limiting the lateral component of his delivery and of minimizing forearm flyout. Wilson picks his elbow up a little, limiting the reverse forearm bounce, and really drives the ball with his triceps.
On some of his pitches, Wilson throws with a low 3/4 arm slot and has a large lateral component in his delivery. His forearm flyout on these pitches limits the contribution from his triceps. On these pitches, he has a more significant reverse forearm bounce. I captured two of these pitches in the clip above, but it's hard to tell which pitch is being thrown.
Wilson seems to pronate very well and very consistently. This is especially true when he turns over his change up.
His follow-through varies with his arm slot. Wilson's higher arm slots result in a cleaner follow-through, and most of Wilson's pitches seem to be thrown from this slot. When his arm drops into the low 3/4 slot, his arm has a tendency to move across his body during follow-through; however, his strong shoulder drive helps take a lot the lateral deceleration stress off his rotator cuff by limiting the degree of horizontal shoulder flexion during deceleration.
Overall. This particular outing, which featured a very wild inning, was sandwiched by two starts in which Wilson utterly dominated the competition - 14 strikeouts in each game. Through his first 3 starts, Wilson has allowed only 9 hits and 5 walks in 18.2 innings while striking out an amazing 35 batters.
He has two average-to-plus Major League pitches in his slider and fastball, and at times, each is a solid plus pitch. Both have the potential to be even better down the road as he further distances himself from Tommy John (ulnar collateral ligament replacement) surgery.
Wilson's mechanics are not perfect, though they may be better now than they were prior to his injury. He has some of the common flaws of the traditional delivery, but it's hard to say if those will cause him trouble down the road. As a pitcher with a significant injury in his past, Wilson will always carry injury questions with him.
Alex Wilson has only improved his draft stock so far this season. Right now, he looks like a very solid 1st round pick. If he keeps doing what he's done so far, he could be a top 10 pick before June rolls around.