Bryse Wilson would be a big beneficiary from regular playing time and making starts with regularity for the Pittsburgh Pirates next season
One of the more notable prospects the Pittsburgh Pirates got back at the 2022 trade deadline was right-hander Bryse Wilson. Wilson, who never got a good shot to prove himself while in an Atlanta Braves uniform, will finally get a chance to prove himself in 2022 as a regular starting pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, something that he should greatly benefit from.
The right-hander was acquired in the Richard Rodriguez trade. Before making it to the Majors, Wilson was considered one of the better starting pitching prospects in the sport. FanGraphs ranked him as the 72nd best prospect in the sport at the beginning of 2019.
At the end of 2018, MLB Pipeline ranked him at #96. He topped out at #60 by Baseball Prospectus before the start of the 2019 season. Wilson consistently ranked among the Braves’ top 15 prospects, topping out as their 9th best prospect by MLB Pipeline, and 10th best by FanGraphs. At the time, this was quite impressive. The Brave farm system was one of the best in the game in the later 2010s. This was after their own rebuild which led to them having many high-end prospects in the system who are now stars like Ronald Acuna Jr., Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson, and Austin Riley.
However, despite his status as a noteworthy pitching prospect, the Braves seldom gave Wilson a chance to prove himself in the major leagues. Debuting in 2018, Wilson would only pitch 76.1 innings in a Brave uniform (plus 6 innings in the 2020 postseason). The most starts he would ever make in the four seasons he appeared in the majors with the Braves was 8, coming this year before the swap. While Wilson struggled in those 76.1 innings, they were sporadically thrown throughout the four seasons. There was no semblance of consistent playing time for the young right-hander.
Plus, it’s not like he has done bad at Triple-A either. Throughout 198.1 innings, Wilson has quite a solid 3.86 ERA, 3.72 FIP, and 1.24 WHIP. Wilson has a workable 1.20 HR/9, 22.8% strikeout rate, it was his ability to prevent free passes that stood out. He only had a 5.4% walk rate, which is well below what is considered the league average in the MLB right now of 8.7%. With an ok strikeout rate and elite walk rate, Wilson has a 4.18 K/BB ratio down at Triple-A.
Now Wilson may not be an overpowering pitcher. He only averages around 92-95 MPH with his fastball. Plus he isn’t a high spin rate guy either. But he has a wide variety of pitches (5 offerings that he has used at least 5% of the time this year) and plus command, evident by his outstanding walk rate at Triple-A.
Granted, Wilson’s first few innings in a Pirate uniform haven’t screamed breakout pitcher. He has a 4.91 ERA, 5.35 FIP, and 1.24 WHIP in 40.1 innings pitched. He has a sub-15% strikeout rate and HR/9 of 1.79. He’s still keeping walks to a minimum with a 5.9% rate, but I think he’ll be better off in 2022.
Wilson’s biggest weakness has been going deep into games. Through the first 3 innings of a game, he has a solid 2.63 ERA, 4.49 FIP, and 1.04 WHIP. While his strikeout rate is still a measly 16.7% rate, and his HR/9 still sits much higher than you’d like at 1.5, his walk rate sits at sub-5% (4.7%). Through innings 4-6, he has a much worse 8.27 ERA, 6.59 FIP, and 1.53 WHIP.
So why do I have any hope Wilson can become something? I believe that so far, we’re looking at too small of a sample size to go off of what his surface numbers say. After all, he has so far, averaged 29 innings a season. No by no means do I believe that he’ll become a #1 ace. But can he become what Tyler Anderson was for the Pittsburgh Pirates? Can he provide 5-6 solid innings and give the Pirates a chance to win most times he goes out to pitch? I believe he can become that. He just needs to build up a regular MLB starter’s workload.