Well-rounded Wilson weighing pros, college
Prep outfielder committed to Stanford, but could be first-rounder
A year ago, Austin Wilson attended the MLB Scouting Bureau Showcase held at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., without too much to worry about.
He was, after all, only a junior. The February event, which has become an unofficial starting point for the high school baseball scene, was much more crucial for the seniors in attendance, the ones hoping a solid performance there would catapult them to the top of Draft boards come June.
"Honestly, I didn't know how big and overwhelming the situation was," Wilson said, thinking back. "I didn't know there were scouting directors and general managers there. I knew there were scouts there. I knew it was another day to get to play. I felt lucky I had the opportunity to have a great day and do it in front of those kinds of people.
I was a junior but knew the pressure was on the older guys. I wasn't nervous because I knew I could get better that day or if I did well, I could put myself on the map. It was a win-win for me."
Wilson did perform well that day, putting him firmly on every scout's radar. He's done nothing to hurt his status since, gaining national exposure during the summer showcase circuit, traveling to places like Minnesota, North Carolina, Chicago and San Diego. That meant when this year's MLB Scouting Bureau Showcase came to the Urban Youth Academy on Feb. 1, it was a -- pardon the expression -- whole new ballgame for the Harvard-Westlake High School (Calif.) senior outfielder.
This week's Draft Reports
|Cody Buckel||Royal HS|
|Dylan Covey||Marantha HS|
|Lonnie Kauppila||Burbank HS|
|Chad Lewis||Marina HS|
|Michael Lorenzen||Fullerton Union HS|
|Griffin Murphy||Redlands East Valley HS|
|Aaron Sanchez||Barstow HS|
|Vincent Velasquez||Garey HS|
|Austin Wilson||Harvard-Westlake HS|
|Anthony Wolters||Rancho Beuna Vista HS|
|Christian Yelich||Westlake HS|
"I'm not going to lie, I wasn't nervous, but I put some unneeded pressure on myself," Wilson admitted. "It was the same event as last year, but, as a senior, it felt bigger. I shouldn't have put that in my head. It was an above-average day for me. I came in with some pressure on myself, but it didn't effect me all that much."
Scouts basically agreed, stating that Wilson put on a show in batting practice once he settled down, showing the plus power that most say is his calling card. He's the kind of player, both in physical stature and demeanor, that people stop to watch the minute he arrives at the yard.
"He walks onto the field to put his bag in the dugout and you you go 'wow,'" one scouting director who was at the showcase said. "He's a tremendous looking man. And he always has a smile on his face. He's done work to fill in his frame. He's got a strong-looking body."
Wilson is much more than that body, of course. In many ways, he is the prototypical toolsy outfielder scouts love to see, one who has power, can run well and has a plus arm from the outfield. Events like the showcase enable him to put all of those things on display in one setting.
"You're not going to see many kids come out of high school with the kind of tools he has on the baseball field that can also be accompanied by being such a polished kid," Harvard-Westlake coach Matt LaCour said. "He seems to do well in almost any environment -- at school, with adults. He's just a great kid to be around."
In many ways, Wilson is new to the sport, at least playing it at this level against a high caliber of competition. Many kids growing up in Southern California play year-round and start playing for travel teams at an early age. Not so for Wilson, who thinks it's a good thing that he hasn't been "all baseball, all the time" growing up.
"I think it was beneficial in some aspects," Wilson said. "I never did the travel ball when I was young. Each year, I'd try and explore the different aspects of good baseball. Last summer, I was playing against the best every week. It was a different environment. I had to pick myself up, make my own adjustments. It was a good learning experience."
"He's definitely got more raw power than you're going to see from 99.9 percent of high school guys," LaCour said. "What he doesn't have is the competitive baseball background from an early age that a lot of these higher profile guys usually have. What you see now, while it's special and gifted, in my opinion, is not going to be comparable to what you're going to see in the future. The ceiling is not close."
To try and reach that ceiling, Wilson has been a sponge of baseball knowledge, taking in every bit of information sent his way. In some ways, said LaCour, he's almost too coachable, to the point where the two have had conversations about not listening to everyone's advice, figuring out what works and when to let natural ability take over.
"There were some points when I was hearing a lot of stuff about my swing and getting into slumps," Wilson admitted. "I was taking all this advice and trying to find one swing. It's what those people think I should do. But it's my swing. I've had to learn how to hear information and pick and choose what advice is the best and will help me the most."
Come June, Wilson will have to make one more big decision. Based purely on talent, Wilson could very easily be a first-round pick. But when he announced a commitment to Stanford University, that made much of the scouting industry pause. Perhaps more than with any other college in the country, that red 'S' is a scarlet letter that tells Major League Baseball teams a high schooler is unsignable, that there's no way to lure him away from attending college and re-entering the Draft three years later.
In the end, that might be what Wilson decides to do. But he made it very clear that teams should not shy away from him just because he has an interest in Stanford.
"I've heard people say, 'Austin Wilson is going to college,'" Wilson said. "That's not true at all. I don't know where that comes from. I feel people, once I signed with Stanford, they said, 'I don't think he wants to play pro baseball.' That's always been one of my dreams. Stanford is great academics and great baseball. It's a way I can excel both ways. I hope people can respect that." Education has always been important to Wilson and his family. His mother, Ina Coleman, is a Stanford alum, and his father, Alan, went to MIT. They made it clear to their son that doing well academically was of the utmost importance. As he excelled there and grew up, they have let him find the right balance between learning in the classroom and on the baseball field.
"My parents drilled that into my head: Work before play," Wilson said. "Get your work done, then you can go play. I got more freedom in baseball once I was getting work done. They respected the work I was doing in the classroom.
They've given me everything I've needed. It wasn't all baseball. I think I would've gotten burned out. School, family, education are big things to focus on. Baseball isn't my whole life, and I needed to understand that."
Having instilled that foundation in their son, the Coleman-Wilsons will ultimately let him make the decision of whether he'll become a pro after being drafted or head to Stanford for three years first. They're there for advice and guidance, but it will be his call what direction to head in next.
"That's exactly true," Wilson said. "I feel I have a great understanding of what the pros and cons are. My dad said to me, 'Regardless, with either path, there will be some point in the next year or so where you'll be sad at one point and wonder what if you had chosen the other path.' As long as it's my decision and they've informed me of the pros and cons, that's everything to me."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.