Tyler Wilson shows you don’t need prospect hype to pitch well (plus AL East notes)

“That’s what they look like,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter will say from time to time.

He’s usually referring to a young prospect when using that phrase. While Tyler Wilson is 25, not 21, Showalter certainly could have used the phrase after Saturday’s game when Wilson buzzed through a mostly first-string Yankees lineup over four scoreless innings, needing just 43 pitches.

wilson-tyler-throws-white-sidebar.jpgOptioned to Triple-A after Saturday’s game so he can build up innings and get ready for his season, Wilson made a strong impression, allowing just one run over 14 innings in camp. He walked one, fanned 11 and looks ready to help whenever the O’s make the call to bring him to Baltimore from Norfolk.

Wilson is finally starting to get noticed and I put myself in the category of those that overlooked him too long. While we sometimes get obsessed with age and velocity and/or where someone is ranked on a top prospects list, Wilson is a player that just kept progressing up the ladder on the O’s farm and won a deserved honor as the organization’s minor league Pitcher of the Year in 2014.

One key for him is experience. Over the 2012-13 seasons, he made a total of 30 starts, pitching a total of 173 innings at Single-A Frederick. Then, over the 2013-14, seasons he made 32 starts, going 186 innings at Double-A Bowie. He was able to hone his craft, adapt and adjust over a long period of time, basically over what would be longer than the equivalent of a full minor league season for both the Keys and Baysox. He’s been the opposite of rushed.

But Wilson has not been highly ranked on prospects lists. Between Baseball America, ESPN.com, Baseball Prospectus and MLBPipeline.com, Wilson appears among the O’s top 10 prospects on one list. He is rated No. 8 by MLBPipeline.com

When I submitted the list for Baseball America, Wilson was No. 12, which rated him behind six other O’s pitchers with Dylan Bundy No. 1, Hunter Harvey No. 2, Zach Davies No. 6, Tim Berry No. 7, Mike Wright No. 8 and Pat Connaughton No. 11.

Here is the write-up on Wilson submitted over the winter for “Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook”:

“Maybe the time has come for Wilson to no longer be overlooked. Drafted out of the University of Virginia after his senior year in 2011, he’s made slow, yet steady progress through the Baltimore system and it culminated in his being named their 2014 minor league Pitcher of the Year. He worked to a 3.67 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A and tied for third in all of the minors with 14 wins and tied for ninth in innings. After making 30 starts in High-A and 32 at Double-A, Wilson ended 2014 with 12 at the Triple-A level.

Wilson’s strong 2014 season was the result of a fastball that gained some velocity, improved secondary pitches and a work ethic one Baltimore staff member ranked as good as any in their organization. He pitched between 90 and 94 showing an uptick in velocity after a strong winter of workouts. His slider and changeup now rate solid-average. His slider showed tight spin and good depth.

A strike-thrower, he has averaged 2.3 walks per nine in his career. Wilson is described as a highly competitive pitcher with great aptitude that does the little things well, like hold runners. His ceiling is back-end starter and he should return to Triple-A to start 2015 and is now knocking on the big league door.”

So he was not even ranked among the O’s top 10 prospects, but it was Wilson that got the top O’s minor league pitching honor last year. So, yeah, we can overdo it with the prospects lists, sometimes giving a pitcher with a nice number before his name too much credit and one without it not enough.

In the end, how they pitch means more than how they’re ranked. The hitters tell us the tale, not the scouting reports.

Kudos to Wilson on his big day in Tampa on Saturday. He is indeed knocking on the big league door and it didn’t matter how much anyone noticed or not as he was on his way.

Around the AL East:

* Red Sox officials say they found “something” in the MRI they conducted on starting catcher Christian Vazquez’s right elbow. He is seeking a second opinion and will likely miss opening day. Backup Ryan Hanigan would move into the starting role. Former Oriole Koji Uehara has lingering discomfort in his right hamstring, hasn’t pitched in a spring game since March 14 and he could miss the opener, as well.

* The Yankees’ CC Sabathia pitched in a minor league game Saturday rather than give the Orioles a look at him as opening day draws closer. He gave up a homer on the first pitch he threw to the Pirates’ Triple-A squad, and allowed four runs and five hits in the 69-pitch, five-inning outing. Sabathia owns an 11.57 ERA (six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings) in Grapefruit League games.

* Tampa Bay is expected to pitch Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi and Nathan Karns in that order in its opening series with the Orioles. The Rays are trying to decide between either Bobby Wilson or Curt Casali as their backup catcher behind Rene Rivera. As of yesterday, the Rays had 44 players remaining on their spring roster.

* Toronto outfielder Jose Bautista is having a strong spring. He is batting .324 with five home runs and 12 RBIs in 13 games along with an OPS of 1.219. Left-hander Johan Santana, who was in the Orioles organization last year, isn’t expected to begin throwing off a mound until the middle of April. Santana, who has not pitched in the majors since 2012, was signed to a minor league deal late last month.

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