A's top prospect is on the fast track to MLB

May 11th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Martín Gallegos’ A’s Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

It was only 10 months ago that took center stage at Lumen Field in Seattle and shook Commissioner Rob Manfred’s hand to commence his transition to professional baseball after the A’s selected him sixth overall in the 2023 MLB Draft.

Less than a year later, Wilson -- ranked Oakland’s No. 1 prospect and the No. 60 overall prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline -- finds himself knocking on the door of the big leagues, and it might not be much longer before he breaks through.

The A’s were aggressive from the jump with Wilson, opting to let the shortstop bypass Single-A and sending him to High-A Lansing after just three games in the Arizona Complex League to start his pro career last summer. He participated in big league camp this spring, then was sent to Double-A Midland to begin his first full season of pro ball. After tearing up Double-A pitching to the tune of a .455/.473/.705 slash line with 16 extra-base hits in 22 games, Wilson -- who turned 22 in March -- was promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas on Wednesday.

“He’s a prodigy,” A’s assistant general manager and director of player personnel Billy Owens said of Wilson. “I loved his father as a player. I definitely believe Jacob will exceed his dad’s career accomplishments.”

Wilson’s father, Jack, enjoyed a 12-year Major League career that saw him earn an All-Star appearance and Silver Slugger Award with the Pirates. While Jack made it to the big leagues relatively quickly, receiving his first callup with Pittsburgh in 2001 after he was a ninth-round pick by the Cardinals in the 1998 Draft, Jacob seems on track to shatter that pace.

“It’s just a matter of time,” Owens said. “Jacob oozes hitter-ish tendencies when he steps in the box. He’s a fun player to watch.”

The hits keep falling at Triple-A for Wilson. He’s notched at least one hit in two of his first three games for Las Vegas, including a 3-for-5 effort with a pair of doubles against Round Rock on Thursday.

Minor League pitching is proving to be no match for Wilson thus far in his young career. He owns a .383/.422/.572 slash line with 26 doubles and four home runs in 51 games across the ACL, High-A, Double-A and Triple-A.

Wilson’s knack for contact stood out before even being drafted. His strikeout rate during his career at Grand Canyon University was a minuscule 4.4%. That attribute jumped out to the A’s coaching staff in Spring Training, and it continues to translate to the professional ranks, with Wilson striking out just 22 times through his first 219 plate appearances.

“The impressive thing is his bat-to-ball skill,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said of Wilson on Friday. “That’s not something you teach. He can put the barrel on any pitch, anywhere, which gives him an advantage. You look at his spray chart and it’s everywhere. It’s not like, ‘Oh, he pulls the ball on the ground or hits it in the air.’ It’s everywhere. That, in itself, will be helpful for him.”

Still, while Wilson’s rapid ascent through the Minors has been the result of his strong performance, Kotsay pointed out some areas of his game that still need some development. Chief among those is his lack of walks. Though the strikeout rate remains low, Wilson has drawn only nine walks in his 219 plate appearances, something the A’s would like to see him improve before deciding if he’s ready to make the jump to the big leagues.

“The best talent is at the Major League level,” Kotsay said. “When guys get here, they realize you have to impact the ball and beat defenders. It’s a little bit different than hitting in the Minor Leagues. I’m not taking anything away from the success, because hitting .440 is hitting .440. … We also want to see him walk. Every level you go up, pitching gets better. Pitches are in the zone longer, so that discipline needs to be there, as well.”