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March 18, 2013 at 6:45 AM

2013 Prospect Previews: Alex Wilson and Drake Britton

Position: Pitcher 2012
Team: Pawtucket Red Sox
2013 Projected Team: Pawtucket Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 26

Strengths: Wilson features a fastball and slider combination that has begun to show better form in a relief role. The heater sits 92-94 mph, with the ability to top out at 95-96 mph. Wilson has improved his ability to stay on top of the offering over the course of the last couple of seasons to push the crispness of the command. The right-hander has learned the value of keeping the ball down, moving away from trying to challenge every hitter up in the zone, where the pitch tends to be flat. The command presently grades as average-to-solid-average. With the improvement throwing more quality strikes during sequences, the effectiveness of his 81-84 mph slider has been enhanced. This offering has long been Wilson’s best pitch. The slider shows the type of tight spin and hard bite to miss bats when set up properly. Wilson carries himself well on the mound, with an even, calm demeanor that keeps him composed when dealing with all situations. The righty isn’t easily rattled and has been learning how to pitch as a reliever since converting early last season.

Development Needs: Wilson falls into ruts of fighting his delivery, which affects both the command and crispness of his stuff. His delivery works much better in a relief role, but there is still some effort and lack of timing. Wilson can rush through it and fail to stay angled towards the plate. The command of his slider is typically the most affected. The 26-year-old is inconsistent throwing the offering for strikes and mixing up the looks to opposing batters. The better hitters eventually end up taking the pitch because it is mostly thrown in the dirt. Wilson is also heavily dependent on having his good slider in every outing. He will throw an 83-86 mph changeup on occasion, but there isn’t much depth to the pitch and it grades as below-average. The righty’s arsenal is limited overall. Wilson’s at the stage where this is pretty much the final product.

2013 Outlook: Wilson is slated to begin the season in Triple-A and will serve as major league bullpen depth. He’ll be in the mix for a call should there be an injury or poor performance with a member on the big club. Much of Wilson’s work in the minors this year is about staying sharp and continuing to show he can handle all situations. I expect him to be used in high-leverage situations with Pawtucket, likely getting some opportunities to come in with men on base and late in games. The righty has the stuff to get big league hitters out, but given the limited nature of the repertoire will always walk a bit of a fine line. He’ll be challenged to find consistency with his delivery. Wilson is likely to make his major league debut at some point this season, whether in the summer or as a September call-up. I see the ability to round into a seventh inning reliever, with the 2013 season Wilson’s chance to show he’s trending towards that major league projection.

Position: Pitcher
2012 Teams: Salem Red Sox/Portland Sea Dogs
2013 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Opening Day Age: 23

Strengths: Britton’s bread and butter is a 92-94 mph fastball that will top out at 95-96 mph with frequency. The left-hander has taken steps forward this past year reeling the offering in after a disastrous 2011 season, which saw the command of the pitch regress. Britton’s heater explodes on batters and shows late arm-side finish when thrown down in the zone. He’s capable of throwing it past batters in the right situations. The big strides in the lefty’s game have been improvement spotting the offering on the corners and throwing more quality strikes with it. Britton utilizes both a curveball and slider as his secondary offerings, the latter being a relatively newer addition to his arsenal. After completely losing command of the 76-78 mph curve in 2011, the 23-year-old began to regain the feel for it last season. The offering has always shown tight rotation, deep break and strong shape, while flashing plus potential. Britton’s also picked up the feel for his 82-85 mph slider quickly. Of his breaking stuff, he commands the slider for strikes the best and has been able to incorporate it into sequences, showing trust and confidence using the pitch. It’s given him another look with which to attack batters. Overall, Britton took steps forward in 2012, putting his career as a potential major leaguer back on track.

Development Needs: The lefty still can be inconsistent with his overall command when working as a starter. He tends to release his fastball early at times, which causes it to sail. Britton needs to always be cognizant of staying within his delivery. The 23-year-old gets himself into trouble when he over-throws. Even with his strong velocity, he can’t afford to work behind in counts and pile up pitches by going deep into every count. Britton is most effective when spotting his fastball and then mixing in his breaking pitches. The release point has wavered somewhat for the pitcher in recent seasons. His curve shows the best shape and depth when he is throwing from a high three-quarters arm slot, but he hasn’t been able to stay on top of his heater from that slot. Britton throws more quality strikes and commands the heater better from a bit lower release, but the curve loses some shape. He has been able to stay out in front of the slider. Britton needs to find more balance with his arm slot, otherwise he will tip his pitches or constantly struggle with his command. The lefty has also run into maturity and judgment issues, getting picked up for a DUI during spring training. It’s raised concerns about his level of focus and lifestyle, with the pitcher now having off-the-field issues to handle.

2013 Outlook: Britton had been optioned to Double-A, where he’s expected to return to the level and continue his development in the upper minors. It remains to be seen whether there will be any discipline handed down as a result of his DUI and time missed when having to deal with his legal troubles. Britton is a talented pitcher, who seemed to be getting back on track in 2012. The improvement was evident when scouting him with Portland last season. I feel the lefty best fits as a reliever at the major league level, with a ceiling of a late inning, set-up type reliever. There is a chance he can get to the big leagues as a starter and make some starts in the early career, but the stuff really has a chance to play up in short bursts. Relief outings would also take some pressure off him having to repeat his delivery multiple times through a lineup, where it can come unglued or go through inconsistent spells during the long season. Britton will be tasked with proving he can continue to show that he is moving forward in 2013 and that his lack of judgment was a one-time isolated incident. Triple-A should be in the 23-year-old’s sights this year, pending he gets ample development time in Portland and doesn’t end up missing a chunk of the season paying for his mistake.

Photo Credits: Alex Wilson by Dave Letizi; Drake Britton by drivfan08

Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen