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Red Sox Top Prospect Voting: Marcus Wilson looks to take the next step

A surprise at number 16.

Marcus Wilson
Kelly O’Connor;

I’ve mentioned for a few rounds voting now that we are in a crowded portion of the ballot with a lot of similarly talented players and how I was surprised that the last few votes have been blowout victories. That was not the case this time around. This was a very close four-man race with three pitchers and one position player. Much like what might happen in a political race, the players in the same lane (in this case the pitchers) may have siphoned off votes from each other, allowing the position player to sneak in for the win. That position player was Marcus Wilson, who comes in at number 16 on our list. (15 without Jeter Downs, who was acquired after this process started.)

Wilson is the second player on this list that we’ve written about (again, we didn’t get a write-up on Downs) who did not start his professional career in the Red Sox organization. Instead, Wilson was drafted back in 2014 out of high school in Georgia by the Diamondbacks. For this reason, we don’t have the same base of knowledge about his early career beyond the numbers. It’s just a different experience when you follow a prospect on a near-daily basis up close.

Unsurprisingly, though, Wilson was not moved along all that aggressively as a high school draftee. Instead, the Diamondbacks mostly moved the outfielder about a level at a time. His first two years were on the complex and then advanced rookie ball, respectively, and he struggled at both levels with a final OPS below .700 in both seasons. He moved up to short-season A-ball in 2016 where he still struggled with power but showed off a ton of on-base ability and got a late-season call-up to A-ball where he continued along that path. He followed that up with a breakout in his full-season debut in 2017 where he finished with an .829 OPS before being pushed up to High-A in 2018, where he fell back off to a .678.

So, that brought us to the beginning of last season, at which point he was still with the Diamondbacks. His prospect shine had worn off at this point, but there were still hints of upside as he was still only 22 and heading to Double-A. He got off to a big start in Jackson, particularly in the power department, but only spent 12 days there. At that point he was traded to Boston in exchange for Blake Swihart.

Wilson’s brief Red Sox career was a whirlwind. After hitting so well at Jackson, albeit over the small sample, Boston felt comfortable enough to send their new outfielder to Portland. That did not go well at all, though, as he got off to a brutal start and then it just started piling up and he couldn’t dig himself out of the hole. He played 19 games in this stint, hit .161/.307/.226, and was subsequently demoted to Salem. Wilson didn’t let that sink his season, though, as he went on a tear back at High-A, hitting .342/.413/.603 in 45 games, and he got back up to Portland for the end of the year. He looked better in this second stint with the Sea Dogs, hitting .250/.325/.486 in 43 games.

So, yeah, it was a whirlwind of a season for Wilson, who got traded and then demoted and then surged and then promoted. The scouting report isn’t much more stable either, though. The good is basically what we’ve seen so far. He is a bit aggressive at the plate, but he also has a good understanding of the strike zone. This allows him to draw plenty of walks, and he’s consistently carried rates in the double digits throughout his minor-league career. He’s also grown well into his power, something that eluded him early on after being drafted but has shown up much more of late. In addition to that, he is a very good athlete with a lot of speed who can play well in the outfield and contribute on the bases. The issue is the hit tool, as there is some serious swing and miss in his game. That can be worked around in today’s game, of course, but there’s a limit. If he can get his strikeout rate in the low 20s like it was in the low minors, there’s something there. Last year, however, he carried a rate over 30 percent at Double-A, which doesn’t bode well for moving up the ladder.

This season is going to be fascinating for Wilson, who is now on the 40-man roster after being added last November ahead of the Rule 5 Draft. His athleticism, patience and power could be enough to give him a bench role on its own, but there’s still a chance for more. Wilson isn’t super young at 23, but he’s also far from old and still has development left. If he can take a step forward with his contact next year and allow his power to continue to play, there’s a chance at an everyday player. He’ll be in Pawtucket to start the year, but there’s a very real chance we see him in the majors, either because he hit that upside and the team needs a spark or because injuries have necessitated his presence.

Here is our list so far:

1A. Jeter Downs

1B. Triston Casas

2. Bobby Dalbec

3. Bryan Mata

4. Noah Song

5. Gilberto Jimenez

6. Jay Groome

7. Jarren Duran

8. Thad Ward

9. Tanner Houck

10. Matthew Lugo

11. C.J. Chatham

12. Connor Wong

13. Nick Decker

14. Cameron Cannon

15. Marcus Wilson

Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number two. As a reminder, to do this you go down below and find the comment from me corresponding with the player for whom you’d like to vote. When you find said player, just click the “rec” button, and that will count your vote. To do this, you will need to be logged in as a member of the site. If you’d like to vote for a player who is not listed, just leave a comment saying “Vote for ___ here” and I’ll rec the comment to count your vote. Until next time...