Over the last 16 months, SF Giants prospect Will Wilson was drafted in the first round by the LA Angels, made his pro debut, traded to the Giants, appeared at his first Spring Training, and played at the Giants alternate site in Sacramento.
The story at the SF Giants alternate site in Sacramento was repetition. Prospect Will Wilson detailed his routine in a piece with Henry Schulman over at The San Francisco Chronicle. Players spent their days between the team hotel and Raley Field, without much in between. Wilson talked to Around the Foghorn about the experience during the waning days of the season.
Heading into 2020, he expected to receive his first taste of full-season minor-league ball. Instead, after spring training was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, he was assigned to the organization’s alternate site where he joined a few fellow prospects and many minor-league veterans on the cusp of the big-league roster.
It’s been a whirlwind since Wilson played his final collegiate game at NC State on June 2nd of 2019. The following day he was selected by the Angels in the first round of the MLB draft. He’d soon sign and play his first pro games in the Arizona League. Then, a few months later, he was packaged with Zack Cozart and traded to the Giants. To get him acclimated to their coaches and program, San Francisco invited Wilson to their offseason developmental camp in January.
Amidst all the change, Wilson focused on staying balanced, “If you try and live in the moment so much in such a crazy situation it can feel very overwhelming at times. So I just take a step back and think about all I’ve accomplished,” he said.
The jump from the college ranks to the lowest levels of the minor leagues is a challenge for almost every player. With nearly all the pitchers at the alternate site featuring Triple-A and some MLB experience, Wilson’s jump has been even more extreme. He tried to dive into the differences in competition.
"At NC State, there was maybe one guy on each team that could throw it hard, spot it up, and had a good offspeed pitch. In short-season, a lot of people couldn’t locate pitches. Then you get here and the whole idea of pitching is to make the batter uncomfortable and not be able to time it up. They never tip pitches, they can throw a fastball anywhere they want to and throw a changeup, curveball, and a slider… nearly 100% of the time."
While the team has not shared the statistics they recorded during simulated games, Wilson said he’s confident in his progression, “The adjustments that I’m making with my hand placement, leg-kick, and load are paying off. I feel like I’m hitting balls harder, my takes are better, and it feels really nice.”
Wilson hasn’t made any major mechanical changes at the plate but has been focusing on hitting balls in the air, “I never thought about [lift] until I got to pro ball and then I found out that my groundball percentage was insanely high. I had no idea.”
At Rookie Ball last season, Wilson’s groundout-to-air out (GO/AO) ratio was 2.33, meaning he had made 2.33 groundball outs to every 1 flyball out. The MLB average in 2020 was just 0.76. Even Jaylin Davis, who’s focused on limiting his groundballs, has a career minor-league GO/AO of just 1.40.
When Wilson began talking to Giants coaches, that was a primary focus, “They were like if you can turn your groundballs and misses into flyballs it’s going to help you hit more doubles and home runs.”
Wilson started each day at the alternate site with a front toss drill. Trying to build a strong swing path into muscle memory, he held his finish after each swing at his optimal finishing position.
Of course, while things were close to normal on the field, there was no denying the realities off it. Restricted to the team hotel, those at the alternate site experienced a drastic contrast, “It’s a little bubble in the hotel that we’re in and you stay in the places and try not to do anything stupid. But then at the field, it’s baseball, it’s normal, and I love it,” Wilson said.
It was hard to foresee a baseball season coming to a safe conclusion, especially after two early-season outbreaks. The alternate sites were another source of complication, but Wilson credits the Giants organization for helping things go as smoothly and safely as possible.
Looking ahead, Wilson knows the ongoing negotiations between minor-league baseball and MLB leave a lot up in the air. Still, if there’s anything the last couple years have prepared him for, it’s being ready to adjust on the fly, “For right now, we don’t even know what teams are going to be there… You just have to compete and play wherever they send you next year if everything’s back to normal,” he said.
Among the Giants top prospects, the expectations are high. However, Wilson’s experience at the alternate site has him well situated to take the next steps in his development.
Other Tidbits From Talking With SF Giants Prospect Will Wilson
When asked which pitcher has been the toughest to adjust to at the plate, Wilson responded, “My toughest matchup has been Tyler Cyr, he’s been lights out since he got here. I think if you asked for a consensus opinion of pitcher who’s been the toughest at-bat, he’d be the one.”
Defensively, Wilson has “played third base a couple of times and second base once or twice,” but has taken the vast majority of his reps at shortstop.
Coaches Jason Wood, Michael Bedard, and Damon Minor have spent the most time working with Wilson, “They’ve taken me under their wing since I got here.”
“He’s my boy, but Patrick Bailey has looked really good swinging the bat. [Alexander] Canario and [Marco] Luciano have made big strides and they’ve definitely matured since they’ve gotten here.” All three rank among the Giants top ten prospects. Also, at Wilson’s wedding last offseason, Bailey was the best man.
Wilson said one of his favorite parts of his time at the alternate site was, “Throwing football [around the field] before we stretch. A decent number of guys go out there and it’s just relaxing and fun.” He played basketball and football growing up.