Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects 2023 Recap: Catcher Eli Wilson

April 15, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals catching gear in the dugout before a game
April 15, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals catching gear in the dugout before a game / Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates catching prospect Eli Wilson put together an under the radar season in 2023 that saw him reach the Double-A level for the first time in his career

When Ben Cherington was hired as general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates in November 2019 the organization lacked legitimate catching prospects. To Cherington's credit, he has worked hard to address this.

Cherington acquired Endy Rodriguez in the Joe Musgrove trade following the 2021 season, selected Henry Davis no. 1 overall in the 2021 draft, and then acquired Abrahan Gutierrez via trade in July of 2021. Adding talented catchers to the farm system has been one of the few good things that Cherington has done as general manager of the Pirates.

A catching prospect that was already in the Pirate farm system when Cherington arrived was Eli Wilson. In his final draft as Pirate general manager, Neal Huntington selected Wilson out of the University of Minnesota in the 16th round of the 2019 MLB Draft.

Throughout his minor league career, Wilson has flown under the radar. This is despite him having always produced at the plate. Wilson has hit for a .249/.359/.403 slash line in 823 career plate appearances in the minor leagues. He owns a very healthy 12.2% career walk rate, he's struck out in 21.6% of his trips to the plate, Wilson owns a .154 isolated slugging (ISO), and a WRC+ of 113.

Wilson's strong offense continued in 2023. In 202 PAs between High-A Greensboro and Double-A Altoona, Wilson hit for a .241/.335/.425 slash line to go with a 10.9% walk rate, 15.8% strikeout rate, .184 ISO, and a 109 wRC+.

An area where Wilson took a big step in 2023 was hitting for power. His .184 ISO was a new career high, so were his 7 home runs and 17 extra base hits. If Wilson's power can continue to trend in an upward direction, it makes him a catching prospect worth monitoring moving forward.

Looking ahead to 2024, Wilson could begin the season back in Altoona or catching with Ali Sánchez at Triple-A Indianapolis. A lot will likely hinge on what the Pirates want to do with Gutierrez as well. The organization will likely want both to be getting regular at-bats, so it then becomes a question of the easiest way to do that.

Both Gutierrez and Wilson could play first base as well, creating a way to make sure they are getting their at-bats in. Wilson may never make the majors with the Pirates or ever become a regular in the majors, but he is at least an intriguing player worth monitoring.

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