The 2018 Brewers minor league season went out with a bit of a fizzle on Saturday evening, as the Biloxi Shuckers fell 3-2 to the Jackson Generals in game four of the Southern League Championship Series. Tough end notwithstanding, it was an interesting year for player development up and down the Milwaukee system, and particularly for those Shuckers, where the performances of Keston Hiura, Corey Ray, Zack Brown, Trey Supak, and others helped raise the collective floor of the organizational talent pool. Several members of that Biloxi club are among the Brewers’ representatives in the Arizona Fall League, where they’ll have another chance to prove their mettle against some of the best competition in minor league ball.
The Brewers are sending the customary eight delegates to the Fall League this year, mixing well-known names with a few under-the-radar selections. Most fans are familiar with top prospect Keston Hiura, former first-round pick Trent Grisham, and young catcher Mario Feliciano. Bubba Derby, many will remember, was part of the trade that sent Khris Davis to Oakland. That quartet headlines the group of prospects on their way to Arizona, where they’ll be joined by relievers Miguel Sanchez and John Olczak, both of whom have been covered on the site in recent weeks, and Daniel Brown. That leaves corner utility player Weston Wilson as the eighth man in.
Wilson enjoyed a nice campaign with the bat this year, producing a combined 270 batting average /.326 on-base percentage /.434 slugging percentage between two levels. The majority of that damage came in the Carolina League, where he played 105 games as a Mudcat and hit .274/.330/.446 for a healthy True Average (TAv) of .273 before a late-season bump to Biloxi. That continues something of a trend for Wilson, who split the 2017 season between Wisconsin and Carolina, hitting quite well at the former and scuffling some upon his promotion. The optimist’s view here is that Wilson makes adjustments as he develops, enduring some early struggles only to emerge a stronger, smarter ballplayer the following year. Someone less inclined to rose-colored glasses may point out that Wilson, a 16th round draftee out of Clemson in 2016, has always started the year a little old for his level, and simply performed in the low minors much as a decent college hitter should. Neither is a bad thing, really. But as a point of comparison, bear in mind that Wilson was drafted the same year as Ronnie Gideon, and signed for a similar bonus. Both hitters destroyed Rookie League ball in 2016, but their paths diverged after that: Wilson hit well for the Timber Rattlers, conquered the Mudcats, and has advanced to Double-A; Gideon struggled in Appleton for a full year, failed to do much for Carolina, and was released mid-season. Wilson may not be a highly-touted prospect, but he is separating himself from his peers in that particular cohort.
Something else to endear Wilson to the Milwaukee faithful: He’s capable of playing all over the field. Wilson started games at first, second, third base, and shortstop, as well as in left and right field this year, racking up most of his innings at first, third, and in left. The eye test reveals at least an average defender; Baseball Prospectus sees his defense as a potential plus. Wilson accumulated 7.3 Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) in the minors this year, a strong mark for any player. That’s a bit out of tune with his earlier defensive value (1.8 FRAA in 2017, -3.1 FRAA in 2016), but certainly enough to suggest a competent fielder. As positional labels begin to lose meaning across the league, Wilson’s comfort with moving around the diamond could become a true asset.
Monitoring Wilson’s development in Arizona and beyond should provide plenty of interest. His 2018 season was carried by a monster month of July, wherein he hit .436/.481/.681 across 27 games and 106 red-hot plate appearances. That came after a putrid June which saw him bat .176/.220/.253 in a similar amount of playing time. Ideally, he’d smooth over those kinds of extreme streaks in the future. He’ll also have to prove that he’s capable of handling advanced pitching at the Double-A and Triple-A levels. Happily, there’s some indication that he’s already begun that journey. Though he finished the regular season hitting .239/.286/.326 (.238 TAv) in a dozen games for the Shuckers, he caught fire in the postseason, going 10-for-27 with a pair of doubles for a .370/.452/.444 line in eight games. Fold that into his regular season work, and he hit .288/.342/.370 wearing a Shuckers uniform. Not shabby for a super-utility sort.
Prior to 2018, Wilson was best known as the prospect who proposed to his girlfriend after she threw out a ceremonial first pitch (incidentally, the video clip in that link suggests that Wilson could bring considerable value as a pitch framer, should he ever encounter the tools of ignorance). Another season like his last could change that in a hurry, especially if he shows well in Arizona next month. Should Wilson continue to develop as he has, he could be manning the diamond Hernán Pérez-style with fellow 2018 Shucker (and partner-in-rhyme) Keston Hiura for years of competitive Brewers baseball to come. Don’t be surprised if you start to see a #FreeWestonWilson campaign start to crop up next year or the year after, and be sure to check out Wilson this fall if you have a chance.