Prospect Retro: Paul Wilson
A college star at Florida State, Wilson was considered the top talent available in the 1994 draft and went first-overall to the Mets. He featured the best combination of power and command in the draft, needing only to improve his changeup to be ready for major league action. He posted a 5.06 ERA in eight starts for St. Lucie in the Florida State League after signing, going 0-5, but he fanned 37 in his first 37 innings. I would probably have given him a Grade A- and rated him in the Top 10-15 pitching prospects.
Wilson began 1995 with Binghamton in the Double-A Eastern League, going 6-3, 2.17 with a 127/24 K/BB in 120 innings. His K/BB was the best in the league, and he impressed scouts with his blazing fastball, breaking stuff, and improving changeup. Promoted to Triple-A in July, he went 5-3, 2.85 in 10 starts with a 67/20 K/BB in 66 innings. I rated him as the best pitching prospect in baseball, and ranked number two overall behind Johnny Damon on the overall prospect list.
In the book comment that year, I noted that Wilson had everything going for him, but that he was a human being, not a robot, and that he could get hurt.
Probably the most heralded rookie in the 1996 class, Wilson went a disappointing 5-12, 5.38 in 26 starts for the Mets, with a 109/71 K/BB and 157 hits allowed. Command problems and tendonitis in his shoulder that he pitched through were the culprits. On November 12, 1996, he underwent surgery to repair a labrum tear.
He spent most of '97 and '98 rehabbing from the labrum injury, but then he blew out his elbow and had to have Tommy John surgery and missed all of 1999. He came back in 2000 and then had four mediocre-to-decent seasons in the Tampa Bay and Cincinnati rotations before hurting his shoulder again in 2005.
What kind of pitcher would Paul Wilson have been if he hadn't gotten hurt? His minor league career indicated a pitcher who had everything going for him, except for the fact that he was a young pitcher. Should the Mets be blamed for pushing him too hard in '95 and '96? Or was this simply fate?
An unanswerable question. But Wilson does serve as a yet another warning that even the best pitching prospects out there do not come with any sort of guarantee.