Wilson plays anywhere, hits everywhere
Sally League RBI leader poses conundrum for Brewers
Steffan Wilson's baseball career has been full of unexpected twists and turns, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that the road ahead, while clearly promising, remains a bit murky.
Wilson, whom the Brewers selected in the 28th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, has been a dominant force at the plate this year for West Virginia of the Class A South Atlantic League. He's been jousting with Rome's Frederick Freeman and Asheville's Darin Holcomb for the RBI lead, in a race that will likely come down to the final game of the season. Wilson's batting average has also climbed steadily toward the .300 mark after an exceptionally underwhelming April.
It's not what Wilson has been able to do with a bat in his hand that has the Milwaukee front office perplexed, though. It's where to put the Harvard product -- yes that Harvard -- when he's on the field that has the Brewers vexed. Wilson has played first base, third base, outfield and designated hitter this season, proving to be adequate at all but a master of none.
Based on what Milwaukee has in the system ahead of him at each position, there doesn't appear to be any obvious resolution to the problem in the near future. But, it's a problem the Brewers are more than happy to have.
"I'm not sure which position he has the most promise at," said Jack Zduriencik, Milwaukee's special assistant for player personnel. "He's been exposed to all three positions and is adequate. The bat is going to be the key with this kid, and will dictate what happens. Things can change from year to year. A month ago, we had Matt LaPorta. Now we don't have him.
"A lot of things will dictate where he ends up playing, based on what we have in the rest of the system and with the big-league club. He just has to keep swinging that hot bat."
Wilson began the season at third base when Zealous Wheeler, the Power's starting third baseman, was forced over to the right side of the infield because of injuries to other infielders. When Wheeler returned, Wilson got bounced and has been a man without a position since.
While Wilson has been able to remain focused despite bouncing around the diamond, he does get frustrated.
"It's tough," he said. "I played maybe the first 30 games or so at third base and had two or three errors and was feeling great. Then they had me playing first base, they mixed in some DH and outfield. If you're not doing something every day, it doesn't come as easily. You have to start thinking more, and it isn't like second nature.
"You see the lineup card and then you can start getting mentally prepared to play the position. I've always been that way, though. I play wherever the team needs me to swing the bat a little bit. And that's been fine. My thinking is that if I can do everything, they'll find a place for me to play. It would be nice to have a position to call your own and get better at it."
Taking a circuitous route to reach his goal is nothing new for Wilson, though. He starred at Harvard, clearly an institution known more for producing doctors, lawyers and politicians than a large crop of professional athletes. Wilson hadn't planned on playing in the Ivy League, the opportunity just sort of materialized, and he went with it, earning a superb education while affording himself the chance to reach professional baseball.
Wilson, who grew up in the shadow of Penn State University, said Stanford was his original choice, but things didn't work out. He looked at Wake Forest, as well, but once Harvard became interested and he was accepted -- well, who can turn down Harvard?
"I visited there and it was real eye-opening," Wilson said. "I had a lot of ideas about Harvard that I guess most people have before they see it. But I met the team and they welcomed me, and it put a lot of my stress at ease.
"A lot of them were like me. You kind of fall into it because of your SATs or your grades. There were a lot of us in the same boat, and that was a big part of it."
Wilson also could have gone to Penn State, but said he needed to get out of Happy Valley. He said he wanted to go to a warm weather school, so ending up in Massachusetts proved a bit ironic. He's happy with his decision, though, and plans on heading back to Harvard next month after the season ends to finish his degree.
"Harvard wasn't even on my radar," said Wilson, who will earn a degree in government. "I asked some scouts how they viewed the program, and would I still get seen and noticed. They told me that if I could play, they would find me, and that took a lot of pressure off the table. Getting a scholarship was my main goal, though, so I could take some financial responsibility off my parents."
Wilson has done that, and figures to accomplish even more financially if he continues to hit the way he has this season. Zduriencik said the organization has no plans to force-feed Wilson through the system, and that in all likelihood he'll be in the Florida State League next season.
"He's a real physical guy with a lot of power," Zduriencik said. "We're anxious to see how he develops. He had a good year last year and has had a pretty good year this year, so we'll see if the trend continues."
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.