The Chicago Cubs are young offensively. And there are more young players on the way. None offer the speed and upside of Wilson.
The youth movement continues for the Chicago Cubs, but not as much in the farm system as once praised. The prospects lost in the trade to rent Aroldis Chapman, in addition to the pipeline of prospects impacting the big league club, the Minor League affiliates of the Cubs are depleted.
What was once the top farm system in the league is now ranked 18th, according to ESPN’s Keith Law.
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There is good and bad that comes from these moves. While it did bring a World Series Championship, the bad is just as obvious. Fewer top prospects mean less trade bait or depth when injury and free agency call. However, it also means that other players get more attention in their development. This helps, especially with our number nine prospect, center fielder D.J. Wilson.
Wilson may only be 5’8″ but his game is much bigger. The top high school player from Ohio in 2015 was selected by the Cubs in the fourth round of the draft. While he rates at 50/80 overall, his speed (65/80) and defense (60/80) make him a valuable asset. So valuable that the Cubs signed him to a contract of $1.3 million, and keeping him from attending Vanderbilt.
His speed is his best trait. Scouts compare him to Adam Eaton and Ben Revere, both being able to use their speed to get on base. Once on base, he is able to swipe another. In 2016, while playing with the Single-A Eugene Emeralds, Wilson stole 21 of 29 bases, all in 64 games. And, like most high-speed players, his high-energy play can annoy opponents.
While the speed helps on defense, so does his ability to read balls in play. Wilson has excellent instincts and tremendous range. If he wants to make it to the Majors, he will have to use his speed to makes plays and hold runners, compensating for his average, but accurate arm.
What’s not to like
Speed can only take a player so far. The ability to leverage speed will be crucial for the young Wilson. So far, it is working. While playing rookie ball in 2015, Wilson obtained a .322 on-base percentage. In just 22 games, he had 12 hits including three doubles, two triples, walked six times, and stole five bases. While that may not seem overly impressive, remember that he just graduated high school and was 18 years old.
Wilson made the move to Eugene in 2016 for a short season. It did not start off well, as he went 12 for his first 76 at-bats, an average of .158. Eventually, he started to come into his own, batting .302 for the rest of the season. He finished 2016 with a .257/.320/.371 split, with three home runs, 29 runs batted in, and 37 runs scored.
He may never hit double-digit home runs, but he can spray the ball around the field. He only commits .74 ground outs for every out in the air. After struggling to start the season, Wilson flattened out his swing and started to hit more line drives. If that progression continues, he will make the majors in late 2018 or 2019.
D.J. Wilson adds a different dimension to an already potent offense, and his defense could strengthen the outfield. With more time and work on hitting left-handed pitching, Wilson is poised to be a stellar player for the Chicago Cubs.