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Bobby Wilson: Top Angels Prospect #23

23) Bobby Wilson, 4/8/83 - C, AAA

.271/.316/.398 with 8 HR. -7 Bat, + 9 Glove

Ranking in a Nutshell: Wilson has ranked among the best defensive catchers in the minor leagues for several years running.  His bat won't be an asset in the majors, but his high contact rate and control of the strike zone gives him a higher offensive "floor" than a certain other defense-oriented catcher on the roster (though Wilson comes nowhere close to that other guy's power ceiling).

Track Record: The Halos drafted Wilson in the 48th round of the 2002 draft on the endorsement of minor league manager and scout extraordinaire Tom Kotchman, who had seen Wilson play with his son, Casey, at Seminole High School in Florida.  Wilson's climb through the minors was steady, if unremarkable: he posted OPS+'s between 93 and 106 at every stop from 2003 to 2008, regular as rain, but never broke out anywhere. In the end, Wilson's glove developed faster than the bat, culminating in Pacific Coast League managers voting him best defensive catcher in 2009. In retrospect, that was a bit of surprise given early scouting reports that predicted his unremarkable tools would keep him from excelling behind the dish.

His 2009 OPS+ slipped to 83 due to declines in his walk rate and BABIP. His line drive rate actually increased to a healthy 19.9%, his ISO remained steady, and he popped out less than he had in previous seasons, so my guess is Wilson's regression to his worst professional performance ever was more bad luck than anything else.

Win-the-Lottery-Ceiling: A good back-up catcher in the mold of Jose Molina, with better strike zone judgment and a touch more juice in his bat. He's out of options, so if he doesn't make the twenty-five man roster out of spring training, look for another club to snap him up.

Scouting Report: (beneath the jump)

I first saw Wilson play in a 2008 spring training game, where he helped guide Shane Loux to a win in the journey man's first gritty Halos' outing. Wilson was also a factor at the plate, lining a bullet over the left field wall. I've been a fan ever since, which of course is both the beauty and the demon of small sample sizes.

Wilson used to utilize a high leg kick to generate some power  (see "Bobby Wilson homers" in the video library)., but the distinctive stride was absent in his September MLB call-up. Instead, Wilson's approach looked entirely contact-oriented: he used his hands to connect with the ball out in front while muting his stride and pivot. The minimized cut helped him to shoot a couple of drives to the gaps, though only one dropped for a hit. He held in well against breaking balls at the major league level, though John Sickles has questioned his bat speed, and therefore his ability to catch up with good fastballs.  His eight 2009 AAA home runs suggest that he will still occasionally turn on a pitch, but overall it appears that power is becoming a decreasingly important aspect of his game.

On the defensive side of things, Wilson does most everything well. He shut down the running game consistently in his climb through the upper minors, posting 40%+ caught stealing rates at multiple stops. That rate dropped to "just" 38% last year, when Pacific Coast League Managers voted him best defensive catcher in the circuit. He has consistently allowed some of the fewest past ball totals in the minor leagues, prompting Baseball America to praise his lateral movement and "soft hands" in each of their past two reviews of the Halos' system.  BA has also consistently praised his game calling ability.  In both AAA and the majors Wilson spent some time at first to increase his versatility, even making a nice play on the run last October tracking down a pop fly over his shoulder. I imagine he'll have no trouble digging balls out of the dirt there.

Wilson is known for his quality make-up, his strong relationships with pitchers, and his through-the-roof work ethic. Those traits took him to the major leagues, a rare feat for a 48th round pick.  

A special thanks to Stephen Smith for publishing the video I linked to above.