Heading into the 2016 Draft, Wilson was the top high school prospect in the state of North Carolina, one who seemed headed to play for his home state Tar Heels. The Braves, who went hard after high school pitching in that Draft, had other ideas, giving Wilson a well-above-slot $1.2 million to sign in the fourth round. He’s defied many expectations, both in how quickly he got to the big leagues, spending time in Atlanta in 2018 and ’19, and in his role on the mound.
Since Wilson entered pro ball, people saw his 6-foot-1 stocky frame, his bulldog mentality and his stuff, and they thought he was destined to be a reliever. But Wilson streaked to the big leagues almost exclusively as a starter, and he’s shown the ability to do so at the highest levels, even if his time with Atlanta has been uneven. He’s still very fastball reliant, with a heater that sits around 95 mph and touches 97 at times. He likes to throw his four-seamer up in the zone, then can sink a two-seamer to get ground-ball outs. He’s gone to his mid-80s changeup more as his top secondary pitch, partially because his breaking ball is still a bit inconsistent, though it can have good tight slider action to it at times.
Throughout his Minor League career, Wilson has shown a propensity for going right after hitters and filling up the strike zone, another reason he could fit in a rotation long-term. It might seem like he’s gotten stuck at the upper levels, but it should be noted he’ll be just 22 for all of 2020, though it might be the year that he figures out a long-term role in the big leagues.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50
In 2016, the Braves took four high school pitchers with their top six picks and signed all of them. Wilson, a prepster from North Carolina, was the last of the quartet, getting $1.2 million to forgo his commitment to the University of North Carolina. After leading the system in ERA in his first full season, he streaked across three levels of the Minors to make his big league debut in 2018, the first high schooler from his Draft class to do so.
Once upon a time, people saw Wilson as a future reliever because of his size, stuff and bulldog mentality. A former high school football player, Wilson goes right after hitters with his three-pitch arsenal. His fastball typically sits in the low-90s, but he's shown the ability to ratchet it up to 97-98 mph at times, and he throws it with a lot of sink to get ground-ball outs. His breaking ball still gets slurvy at times and can look like a slider or a curve depending on when you see it, but it's an effective pitch, especially when it's harder and tighter. His changeup keeps improving and flashes above-average at times.
All of his stuff plays up because he can command it well and has shown fearlessness on the mound throughout his quick run up the organizational ladder. He's convinced evaluators he can start, with a ceiling perhaps as a mid-rotation starter, though the Braves' pitching depth could send him to the bullpen, at least in the short-term.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 55
The Braves went all in on high school pitching in the 2016 Draft, creatively using their bonus pool money to sign Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz, Kyle Muller and Wilson, who was taken in the fourth round and given $1.2 million to walk away from his North Carolina commitment. Many saw a future reliever as he came into pro ball, but after a first full season that saw him lead the system in ERA, there's no reason to think he can't start.
The word most often used to describe Wilson, a former high school football standout, is bulldog. He is fearless on the mound and looks like he should have a solid three-pitch mix to attack hitters with. He typically pitches with a 60 fastball, up to 95 mph, but it plays up at times because of the power sink to it that leads to a ton of ground-ball outs. His slider got slurvish at times last year and sometimes will look more like a curveball, but he's shown enough feel to spin a tighter slider and there is confidence that it will be an average, if not better, breaking ball. His changeup has improved and has a very good chance to be a third, at least Major League average, weapon.
Because of his build, his aggressive mentality on the mound, his fastball-slider combination and his delivery, many saw a backend bullpen piece. But his stuff and command, to go along with the developmental strides he made in his first full season, all point to a career as a No. 3-type starter.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
The 2016 Draft for the Braves will likely always be known for the big arms they took at the top: Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz and Kyle Muller. Wilson might seem like the fourth musketeer for now, but the fourth-rounder who got $1.2 million to sign instead of going to the University of North Carolina has pitching tools that should not be ignored.
A football player in high school, Wilson brings a bulldog mentality to the mound. He goes right after hitters with what eventually could be a solid three-pitch mix, though it's inconsistent at present. His fastball sits in the 92-94 mph range, but he can reach back for a few more ticks of velocity at times. His slider is slurvy, but he had made some adjustments to his long arm action to tighten it up under pro tutelage. Wilson didn't throw his changeup much in high school, but there are the makings of a usable offspeed pitch in there. He does do a good job of throwing strikes with all three pitches.
Wilson is strong and durable, not your typical tall and lanky high schooler, so there isn't a ton of projection to him. Some amateur scouts saw a future reliever in him, but he'll begin his Braves career in earnest as a starter and see where it takes him.