Preston Wilson Q&A: Marlins showing maturation
Snazzy suits and baseball insight to boot.
Preston Wilson enters his third season with the FOX Sports Florida staff as a pregame and postgame analyst for select Marlins Live shows throughout 2014.
Wilson spent 10 years in the big leagues, including five with the Marlins from 1998-2002, finishing as a .264 hitter with 189 home runs and 668 RBI.
As a rookie center fielder, Wilson led the team in home runs and RBI for second in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting. In 1999, he joined the 30-30 club with 31 home runs and 36 stolen bases.
FOX Sports Florida’s Christina De Nicola spoke with Wilson, whom you can follow on Twitter (@PrestonWilson44), about the Marlins’ performance in April. She’ll catch up with various members of the broadcast team throughout the 2014 season for insight on the club.
FOX SPORTS FLORIDA: Do you see the team being streaky this year? They opened that homestand 5-2 and then they had a eight-game losing streak.
PRESTON WILSON: I think it’s too early to say they’re streaky. I see them as a young club that’s maturing. They’re finally competing on the road. Before they weren’t competing. The last couple of years they might have won a game or two here or there but they weren’t competing. They’ve had a lot of games this year where they were actually ahead late in the game. One of the hardest things to do as a young ballclub is win against a veteran ballclub on the road. The Marlins are just in a situation where there are three really good veteran teams in their same division.
FSF: How do you see them getting over that hump where they can execute better to beat these teams?
WILSON: It happens. Sometimes pitchers make good pitches. People seem to forget that hitting a baseball is the hardest action to complete in a sport. Quarterback is the hardest position to play, but hitting a baseball has been scientifically proven to be the hardest action in sports. With that being said I do see a better thought process with what’s going on with some of their at-bats with men in scoring position.
FSF: We saw the Mariners intentionally walk Giancarlo Stanton a few times. Do you see more teams doing that?
WILSON: That’s going to depend on him. If he’s going to not expand the strike zone in key situations and force them to get him out instead of getting himself out they’re going to walk him. What you’ve seen early is the unintentional intentional walk where they’ll throw balls not even close hoping he’ll swing at it. If he proves he’ll continue to lay off those they’ll intentionally walk him. They don’t want that mistake to happen.
FSF: What are some of the encouraging signs from this season that you’ve seen so far?
WILSON: I’m seeing Tom Koehler throw a lot more strikes this year, which is good because his pitch count really got him into trouble last year. I’m seeing (Derek) Dietrich hit the ball the other way. I don’t remember him hitting the ball the other way three times last year. He’s got the power, now he just needs some of the consistency to go with that power. Anytime you’ve got a power bat at second base, that’s huge. I’m seeing a healthy Giancarlo Stanton, which is something the Marlins hadn’t really seen. What’s encouraging to me is how well he’s playing defense. Even that ball that scooted over his glove, he was in a great position and he worked hard to get down to that ball and it just took a bad hop. I’m seeing effort on defense.
FSF: We talked about some of the positive things. What are some of the things you hope to see improvement from the team?
WILSON: I’m starting to expect more from them on the bases. I’m seeing way too many guys getting picked off. It’s not good baserunning. I know Brett Butler’s going to help with that. I’m seeing poor defense on the infield. They’re making a lot of errors on the infield right now. That’s got to get cleaned up. I’m seeing relievers constantly getting beat to guys’ pull side. (Nathan) Eovaldi — even though he’s not a reliever — late-inning home run on a slider to one of the smallest guys on the team to the only area he can hit it out of Marlins Park.
They went on the road — Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond — all home runs to the pull side in late and crucial situations. On the Phillies trip — Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley — home runs to the pull side in key situations. A rule of thumb for relievers: Don’t get beat to the short side of the field. Stanton hit that grand slam the other night to center field. They make you hit the ball to the bigger part of the field. I think part of it is just location. You’ve got a lot of guys who can light up the radar gun, and scouts love that, but they’ve got to locate pitches because Greg Maddux pitched at 83 mph and he was very effective. Everybody in the big leagues can hit a fastball. They need you to start having command in the strike zone.
FSF: How do you see everything playing out through the first month of the season?
WILSON: I think the biggest thing is they feel like they’re competing every night now. It’s been a long road these last couple years because they went through a feeling of being ready to go two years ago, then they weren’t really competing well. Now this year they’re in every game. A lot of those games they lost on the road they were ahead after the sixth inning. They feel like now they’re competing. They’re not just in the big leagues, they’re competing in the big leagues and next up is to win on the road in the big leagues. I think they’re going to go as far as they mature.