Prospect Retro: Preston Wilson
Preston Wilson was drafted by the New York Mets in the first round (9th overall) of the 1992 draft, out of high school in South Carolina. He was considered one of the "toolsiest" players in the draft, with plus power and speed potential, but somewhat raw. He didn't play until '93, appearing in 66 games for short-season Kingsport. He hit just .232, but did knock 16 home runs. . .he also struck out 75 times in 66 games. A retro grade is difficult; something like C+ or B- "high ceiling but major flaws" sounds appropriate.
Moved up to full-season Capital City in 1994, Wilson hit .228/.267/.369 in 131 games. He hit 14 homers and stole 10 bases, but posted a horrible 20/135/474 BB/K/AB ratio. "Great tools, no skills" would be the call there. Grade C if I was in a good mood and had a favorable impression of him in person.
Repeating Capital City in '95, Wilson improved to .269/.305/.486, hitting 20 homers and stealing 20 bases. His BB/K/AB was still horrid at 19/114/442, but his other numbers improved and scouts believed he'd made real progress. I was very skeptical and gave him a Grade C- in my 1996 book, which was too low of a grade.
Wilson lost most of 1996 to injuries (a fractured wrist and a separated shoulder), playing just 23 games for St. Lucie. He hit just .176 in those 23 games. I dismissed him in the '97 book as the "ultimate good tools/no skills player," and wrote that I didn't believe in him. Grade C-.
Coming back healthy in '97, Wilson made me look stupid, hitting .235/.275/.437 in the first half for St. Lucie, then .286/.344/.560 in the second half for Double-A Binghamton, combining for 30 homers. I was still skeptical, giving him a Grade C but noting that he was young enough for the improvement to be real.
Wilson began '98 in Triple-A, but ended up going to the Marlins in the early season Mike Piazza trade. He had a solid year in Triple-A, but contact remained a serious issue (121 strikeouts in 94 games) and I still didn't trust him. Grade C again.
'99 was a solid season for Wilson, as he hit .280/.350/.502 for the Marlins, better numbers than he'd ever posted in the minors. His walk rate increased to adequate levels; he still struck out a lot, but still made contact often enough to be dangerous.
It is clear that I underestimated Wilson, particularly from 1997 onward. There were signs of progress in his numbers, but I discounted them because he didn't fit into the stathead paradigm. Nowadays, I try harder to give tools players like Wilson a fair shake in my projections, especially when they are very young and have lots of development time ahead of them. In my own mind, I call this the Preston Wilson Principle: a reminder not to be a fundamentalist in the tools vs. skills debate.
Comparable Players to Preston Wilson, No Actives Listed