MLB draft preview: 3 teams that could draft Jacob Wilson

Grand Canyon's infielder Jacob Wilson (2) throws the ball to first base against Texas Tech in game two of their midweek series, Wednesday, April 19, 2023, at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park.
Grand Canyon's infielder Jacob Wilson (2) throws the ball to first base against Texas Tech in game two of their midweek series, Wednesday, April 19, 2023, at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park. /

Jacob Wilson is the hitting machine shortstop from Grand Canyon University (GCU) that has been moving up the MLB mock drafts all season. The latest mock drafts from both Jim Callis of and Baseball America, have Wilson being taken sixth overall in the first round by the Oakland A’s. There has also been rumblings about either of the next two teams on the draft board, the Cincinnati Reds and the Kansas City Royals, snagging Wilson if he is still available.

He jumped onto everyone’s radar last season when, in 59 games, he batted .358/.418/.585, had 12 home runs, one triple, 18 doubles, 44 runs, and 65 runs batted in, while striking out only seven times. In addition to his hitting skills, Wilson showed that he had the baseball IQ and ability to play a tight shortstop.

Wilson comes by his baseball knowledge and skills honestly, as his dad is former All-Star and Silver Slugger Jack Wilson, who played a large part of his 12-year MLB career for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jack coached Jacob in high school and this season is an assistant coach for the Lopes.

A’s, Reds, and Royals linked to top draft prospect Jacob Wilson

After the strong showing in 2022, there was quite a spotlight on the younger Wilson. He hasn’t wilted at all, but instead has flourished even more, despite the added pressure of being a potential top-10 draft prospect. Through Friday and 42 games, Wilson has slashed .426/.473/.673, has five homeruns, four triples, 17 doubles, 38 runs, and 57 runs batted in, with only five strikeouts.

After striking out only 19 times in 47 games his freshman year, Wilson has got punched out an amazingly low 12 times over the last two seasons which, to date, covers 101 games and 455 plate appearances. To say that he has superior bat to ball skills is a gross understatement.

His home run numbers are down this year, but as he matures into his 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame there should be more home runs come his way. In a day and age when prospects are sacrificing hits for the potential power, it is refreshing to see someone with Wilson’s approach just going out and getting hits.

Wilson may not be the flashiest shortstop prospect available, but his hit tools are the best in this draft class. He also is projected as having the highest floor of the class as well. There is something to be said for consistent and reliable ball players. His game should play well at any level of professional baseball, all the way to the big leagues. There are some questions about if he can stick at shortstop long-term. As Luis Arraez has proven, if a player can hit at an elevated clip, there will always be a place for them to play.

I had the pleasure of seeing Wilson play in person, even though it wasn’t nearly as much action as was hoping for. Since the beginning of the year when the college baseball schedules were finalized, I have had last weekend circled. My family and I have season tickets to my undergrad alma mater, Tarleton State University, and we were scheduled to host Wilson and his GCU teammates (which also includes Homer Bush, Jr. who is quite impressive by the way).

Three of our daughters and I were going to go to the game on Friday and got to the stadium in plenty of time to watch Wilson take infield/outfield, which was a treat. He was to be in the starting lineup Friday night, but a springtime storm popped up just before game time, which first delayed the game. The delay ultimately turned into a postponement and a Saturday double-header.

With previous obligations for others in my family, I made the short trip to Stephenville, Texas, on Saturday morning by myself to watch the twin bill. Much to my chagrin, Wilson wasn’t in the lineup for the first game of the day. He had received a pretty nasty gash on his face while sliding back into first base in his mid-week game that previous Tuesday night against Arizona. Because of that injury, he was being held out for precautionary reasons … and who can blame everyone involved? A healthy Wilson is GCU’s best chance to make a regional. And, ultimately more important for him long-term, he doesn’t want to jeopardize the multimillion-dollar payday that awaits him come July, as long as things continue on their current path.

When the lineups for the second game of the day were announced and Wilson was batting second and playing shortstop, I got excited. He didn’t waste any time giving me something to write about. In the first inning, after taking a strike, he shot a double into the right-center field gap. His next at-bat was basically a repeat of the first one as Wilson took the first pitch, this time for a ball, and then ripped the next offering, this time into the left-center field gap for yet another double.

When in the box, Wilson has a tremendous amount of movement back and forth to help make sure that his quick twitch muscles are engaged. However, as the pitcher starts his delivery, Wilson gets lower, quiet, and loads up to punish the baseball. It is a unique batting style that has served him well to this point and should transition to the major leagues with little change.

Prior to the second double, Wilson was taking a throw from the first baseman on a tag play and picked it out of the dirt, applying the tag and getting the runner at second. On the play, there was a bit of a collision that clearly shook up Wilson. He stayed in the game long enough to get that second double, but was removed shortly after and didn’t see any more action over the weekend. In fact, he sat out their Tuesday game at Baylor, but was back in the lineup as DH this Friday.

So, I got to see Wilson get four pitches and the two that he swung at he turned into doubles. I also saw a kid that was having fun and appeared to be a great team player. When his left fielder made an outstanding catch while running into the wall, he didn’t hesitate in running out to check on him. The numbers speak for themselves, but it is also the intangibles that can move a draft prospect either up or down the draft board.

With the A’s and Royals being the two worst teams in the league at the moment, any pick that can turn into a major leaguer will be welcomed. The Reds are a few years ahead of the other two teams in their rebuild and adding a piece like Wilson to the mix might make a ton of sense.  One thing is for sure, whichever team drafts and signs Jacob Wilson will be adding a first-rate piece to their organization.

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