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SoxProspects News

February 9, 2011 at 10:34 AM

2011 Prospect Previews: Alex Wilson and Brandon Jacobs

With Spring Training set to get under way, SoxProspects.com will be taking an in depth look at many of the system's prospects with previews set for every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday leading up to Opening Day. The second installment of the series features one of the Red Sox' prospects tracking towards the major leagues and another with an eye on rounding out his rough edges in his first year of full-season baseball.

Alex Wilson
Position: Starting Pitcher
2010 Teams: Salem Red Sox/Portland Sea Dogs
2011 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Opening Day Age: 24

Strengths: Throwing from a high ¾ arm slot, Wilson’s repertoire is highlighted by his fastball that sits 91-93 MPH and tight breaking mid-80s slider. With the ability to work both sides of the plate, he uses his fastball to get ahead in the count, and can also reach back to dial it up to 95 MPH when he is looking to throw it past a batter. Wilson generally exhibits strong command and solid feel for his heater, showing good late life and some run when he throws it down in the lower portion of the strike zone. Featuring clean and repeatable mechanics, he has an easy time finding his release point and has been consistent with it to pound the corners of the plate, keeping the ball out of the middle of the zone. When ahead in the count or needing to show another look early in sequences to keep batters off-balance, Wilson leans heavily on his late-breaking slider that darts out of the strike zone and can have right-handed batters bailing towards third base. His slider exhibits the highest potential in his arsenal, looking like a future swing-and-miss-producing offering at the major league level. It should evolve into a plus pitch with some added consistency. When his slider is on, batters do not fair much of a chance. A quick worker and tough competitor on the mound, Wilson isn’t afraid to come right after batters and has adjusted well to pitching inside against professionals.

Development Needs: While Wilson’s fastball shows plus velocity and some movement down in the zone, it tends to flatten out up in the strike zone and becomes very hittable in this area. Now in the upper levels of the minors, he’s going to have to be more careful up in the zone and focus a bit more on finishing through his delivery to further enhance his command. Some of Wilson’s command troubles come from occasionally rushing his delivery and reaching back too much for added velocity, along with failing to change the eye level of hitters with his fastball during at-bats. Improvement with his pitch patterns and keeping on top of the ball should allow him to concentrate on working lower in the strike zone more often. Wilson features a mid-80s changeup, but this offering is currently below-average and does not have much separation from his fastball, often coming out of his hand without much fade. The continued development and sharpening of this pitch will have a strong effect on determining whether he can stick in the role of a starting pitcher down the line. He looks best suited, though, as a late inning reliever, as his velocity tends to drop off by the third trip through an opposing lineup and his fastball can operate in its higher reaches more consistently in this type of role. Given his fastball and slider combination, Wilson can become a 1-2 inning pitcher, who doesn’t give up a lot of contact and minimizes damage.

2011 Outlook: Invited to Spring Training in the major league camp as a non-roster player, Wilson will get his first experience working with the big leaguers and it should be a positive springboard for him to ramp into the 2011 season. After a mid-season promotion to Double-A last year, he looks slated to break camp with Portland and build off the experience gained during his first go-around against advanced competition. To continue to stretch his arm out and sharpen his stuff, Wilson will work out of the rotation with the Sea Dogs and try to show that he can master the Eastern League, with an eye on a potential promotion to the next level later on in the summer. A positive sign of this plan coming to fruition will be fewer fastballs up in the zone, which should be reflected in a reduction in the number of hits he gives up and a drop-off in the number of home runs he allows. Continued polishing of his command through staying relaxed with his delivery and finishing his pitches with added consistency will help cut his walks down at this level as well. It’s not out of the question to potentially see a move to the bullpen down the line, but at least for the first half of the season Wilson will concentrate on working to put the finishing touches on his overall package, while whatever future role may await him shapes up as he pushes towards becoming major league ready.

Brandon Jacobs
Position: Outfield
2010 Team: Lowell Spinners
2011 Projected Team: Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 20

Strengths: An above-average athlete for a player his size and proving to be a little less raw than initially thought, Jacobs’s game centers on his power potential. With a strong lower body and powerful wrists, he can unload a fluid swing with a lot of torque through the strike zone to generate hard contact and good backspin on the ball. He shows the ability to drive pitches hard into the left-centerfield gap and should have strong power to all fields once he matures as a hitter. As Jacobs learns to add some more loft to his swing path, he can further tap into his natural strength and evolve into a hitter with plus power down the line. Relatively inexperienced with baseball after spending most of his time focusing on football prior to signing with the organization, he showed good aptitude for picking up the Red Sox hitting philosophies and a lot of dedication to building a patient approach to pick out pitches in favorable counts. Surprisingly quick, once Jacobs gets moving defensively he can cover a lot of ground. He moves especially well laterally in the outfield when tracking balls down. Now fully dedicated to baseball, Jacobs is the type of talent that can make strong gains and display an aggressive learning curve.

Development Needs: Jacobs’s swing can be on the long side and he can get himself off-balance at times, while displaying added head movement when starting his load. He tends to open early with his hips and ends up pushing the bat head towards the ball, rather than driving with his strong hands to the point of contact. Jacobs has been susceptible to elevated fastballs up and away due to looping around the ball, and he also needs some work on pulling his hands in to clean out inside pitches, rather than trying to extend on them and jam himself. Given where Jacobs is in his development, these flaws all are correctable with more experience and repetition, but they will be important needs for him going forward if he wants to become a hitter that can make consistent contact as he rises up the ranks and not just run into mistake pitches in small isolated zones on the plate. Continued work and concentration on his approach should enable him to adjust more quickly to the better pitching he is going to see, and this area is where Jacobs can make stronger initial strides to aid in minimizing the exposure of his other key needs. Though possessing an accurate arm and quick release, his throws are not much more than average in terms of strength and tend to lose steam as they approach the bases. Because he doesn’t have much defensive flexibility, more focus will be put on developing a strong offensive game to profile as a potential everyday outfielder down the line.

2011 Outlook: Jacobs appears to have the inside track on manning an outfield slot with the Greenville Drive when full-season teams head north in April, and a strong camp will further help make his case. After transitioning well to his first experience in professional baseball with Lowell last summer, Jacobs has a challenge in front of him to adjust quickly to moving up a level. If he can display the same type of patient and mindful focus on honing his approach as he did last season, he should be able to settle in and display a solid level of comfort as the summer months heat up. The next step for Jacobs is to consistently produce hard contact through selectivity and mechanical swing adjustments at this level. Strong signs of growth in these areas should reflect in better contact rates and a rise in extra-base hit totals. Still on the flat side with his swing and still learning how to hit as a professional, stronger home run totals are potentially a season or two away, but because of Jacobs’s strength and ability to produce line drives with good carry, if he is making better hard contact he’ll hit some more balls over the wall as a byproduct of this improvement. Jacobs has a lot of work ahead of him to become ready for the high minors, especially offensively, but 2011 can be a big developmental season for him and one that could show he’s a rising outfielder within the Red Sox system with high power potential.