Q&A: Wilson on development, Giants' future

August 25th, 2020

The last eight months have been a whirlwind for infield prospect Will Wilson.

In December, Wilson woke up from a nap to learn that he had been traded from the Angels to the Giants, who took on the remaining $12.7 million of Zack Cozart’s contract to land Wilson, who was a 2019 first-round Draft pick.

It was only the beginning of several personal and professional developments for Wilson, who subsequently got married, saw his first Spring Training with the Giants interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and then found himself in San Francisco for a three-week Summer Camp at Oracle Park last month.

The 22-year-old is now among the approximately 30 players who are continuing to work out and develop at the Giants’ alternate training site in Sacramento. Wilson, who is ranked the club’s No. 11 prospect by MLB Pipeline, took some time to discuss his ongoing progress, his relationship with top prospect Joey Bart and his outlook on the Giants’ bright future in a phone interview last week.

This conversation has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

First of all, how is life at the alternate training site?
It’s definitely a different atmosphere than any other baseball-related season I’ve had, but at the same time, you can’t take it for granted. We’re out here getting to play baseball. It might be against the same people. Every other day we get to scrimmage, but it’s still baseball and we’re developing. We find ways to make it fun. It’s going about as good as you could imagine a quarantine baseball season against the same 30 people would go.

What does a typical day look like?
I usually get to the field around 2 to 3 p.m. If we’re scrimmaging that day, we usually do some early work or get a lift in. Take some ground balls, hit BP and scrimmage. If not, then it’s usually the same thing, minus the scrimmage. In the mornings, I wake up, order some DoorDash or grab some coffee. Hang out until you can go to the field and then come back and quarantine in your room for a little bit.

How does the setup compare to a typical Minor League season?
Through my brief stint of playing short season last year, being in one location is different because you’re [usually] traveling so much, playing different teams. Playing the same people is a little different from playing other people. I think also there’s more consistency here. There’s the alternate site and the big leagues. There’s not so much, ‘Oh, you can get called from short season to Low A, or Low A to High A.’ It’s a jump from an alternate site to the big leagues, so I think you just have to come in with that mindset and prepare. Let that be your motivation, that you’re one step away from the big leagues.

How much development can you realistically gain if you’re facing the same pitchers over and over again?
I think it’s definitely tough because they get to know you, and you get to know them. It’s a battle of the mindset when you face them. But at the same time, a lot of people here are developing and they’re working on new things. So am I, and so are a lot of other position players. It’s good to see if a pitcher is working on something new, or he’s trying to locate a pitch here or there, how are you going to beat him when you’re facing him in that game when he’s doing something different? I think that’s one takeaway that I’ve noticed from that.

What are you working on specifically?
I’m kind of just working on things that I got from Summer Camp in San Francisco with the hitting coaches over there. Just staying in my legs a little bit. Working on my bat path so that I’m holding my finish a little higher, so that I can stay in the zone longer.

We saw you work all over the infield during Summer Camp -- have you continued to log reps at third base in addition to second and shortstop?
Yeah. I think obviously my main focus is shortstop. I think they want me to get as many reps there as possible, but I’ve been playing in scrimmages at third and second and taking ground balls there. For me, it’s not a tough transition going to either one of those positions compared to shortstop. It’s just something that I’m going to work on so that I can be more versatile in the coming years.

Back tracking a little bit to December, what was your reaction when you learned that you’d been traded to the Giants?
It was crazy. I was actually napping when I got a phone call from the Angels. I woke up and I thought it was a routine check-in. I found out I got traded. Obviously, it was kind of a whirlwind. I got traded on like a Tuesday. I got married on Saturday. I went to my honeymoon and then came back. The next thing I knew I was in Arizona with a completely different team, getting to know a bunch of different guys. It was a whirlwind for a little bit, but obviously it slowed down. I love it. I love this organization. I think I’m in a great spot. I think it’s a good thing that happened.

When the trade was announced, Farhan Zaidi mentioned that the Giants had actually thought about using their first-round pick to select you last year. Did you get a sense that the Giants were pretty high on you heading into the 2019 Draft?
Yeah. I had a really good relationship with [Michael] Holmes, the scouting director. He’s a really good guy. I talked to him a lot. They showed interest, but obviously they went with [Hunter] Bishop. It’s just tough. The Draft works in a crazy way, you never know what’s going to happen. They could redo our Draft and it could go completely different from how it went last year. I knew they were interested, but obviously, when you get traded and look into the trade a little bit, it makes you feel really thankful and wanted.

The Giants drafted two of your former North Carolina State teammates, Patrick Bailey and Nick Swiney, this year. What was it like to reunite with those guys in San Francisco?
It’s been awesome. Pat’s been out there [in Sacramento]. I texted Nick a couple of times. He’s not out here, he’s back home in North Carolina, so I’ve been texting him on and off. Patrick’s been out here the whole time. It’s just been great to see those guys come to such a good organization. Hopefully I can give them some tidbits on what I’ve learned in my brief stint with them and make it a little bit easier of a transition to pro ball. But from what I’ve seen of Patrick and what Nick’s been saying, they’ve done an awesome job of getting to know people already and feeling comfortable in this organization.

You and Joey Bart both came out of the ACC -- do you have any memories of playing against him in college?
I actually played with him on the USA National Team for a couple of weeks. So I got to know him personally through that. We played against each other my sophomore year. They came to us. I think that was the only time we actually played Georgia Tech. But just watching him catch behind the plate, I always thought that he had some of the softest hands in college baseball that I’d ever seen at that point. We have a lot in common, coming from the southeast. We lived together in Spring Training. We just have a lot of common ground. He’s a phenomenal dude. He actually came to talk to me after he found out he got called up. I’m so happy for the guy. It’s been coming for him, and it’s going to be awesome to see him up there playing.

How was the news of Joey’s promotion received in Sacramento?
We’re not supposed to, like, hang out outside the field, but he knocked on my door [on Wednesday night]. I think he found out at like 11 p.m. He knocked at my door at like 12 a.m. I was like, 'What is he doing?' He came in and gave me a hug. He was like, 'Dude, I’m going up.' Thinking back, I knew it was coming, I just didn’t know when. I think everybody knew it was coming, they just didn’t know when it was going to happen. We sat here and talked for a little bit. He’s been working for that his whole life and it finally happened. I’m pumped for him. It’s going to be awesome to see him up there.

Have any players stuck out in particular, like Marco Luciano, Luis Toribio or Alexander Canario?
I think it’s unbelievable that those guys are so young, and they can do the things that they’ve shown they can do with a baseball glove and a bat. All three of them have hit some balls that have been way out of the field here. Defensively, Luciano and Toribio, I work with them on the infield, so watching their actions, it’s just so smooth. They’re so young, it’s unbelievable. They’re going to be really, really good players.

Does seeing this core of young guys at the alternate site make you excited about the future?
Absolutely. Me and Bishop talk about it sometimes at the field. Me and Joey would talk about it. The time is coming. The Giants have been a really good organization for a long time, and they’re starting to come up a little bit this year. I’ve been trying to keep up with all the games and they’ve looked good offensively the past couple of games. Pitching-wise, everything has kind of clicked. But when you bring a young core up together and add prospects and tools the way we have, I think it’s a recipe for success. Hopefully we get up there and we just continue to do what the Giants have always done, and that’s win.

How do you spend your free time when you’re not at the ballpark?
Oh, man. I don’t really know. It’s hard. I tried to get into video games for a little bit, but I’m not a video game person. I occasionally play for like 30 minutes here or there. I watch Netflix or try to find a movie, but I feel like I’ve watched everything on there already. I’ll talk to my wife on the phone. Just TV and calling people. I feel like I don’t get to see people besides the field, so I just try and call people and feel like I’m talking to someone.