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August 22, 2014

The View from the Loge Level

You Gotta Have Raw

by Daron Sutton


As of August 21st, MLB’s leaguewide slugging percentage in 2014 sits at .385. The last time the league slugged at that level was in 1992, when .377 was the number. Just for perspective, the peak came in 2000 at .437 and the valley occurred in 1968 at .340. Quick math shows where on the continuum we reside today; therefore, amateur power is at a premium. Whether it’s a polished, explosive bat like that of Florida prep shortstop Brendan Rodgers—ranked the no. 2 overall player in the United States by Perfect Game—or the raw slug ability of Luken Baker—who, despite being the no. 3 right-handed pitcher in Texas according to PG, has gained arguably more attention by winning several home run derbies on a large stages this summer—power gets noticed.

So it seems likely that more truly unpolished big bats could soon enter the pro ranks, simply based on their rare and coveted skill. So I thought I’d connect with a former player who fit the mold of “raw” early in his career, and get inside his head about the growth he experienced and the pitfalls he encountered.

Bemberg Ehrhardt High School (SC) star Preston Wilson was the Mets’ first round pick in 1992. It was evident right away that he had the bat and the strength to merit a ninth-overall selection. The home runs never seemed to run dry, 83 total in 402 games below Double-A. But as an 18- and 19-year-old, he learned quickly that he hadn’t come close to figuring it all out, despite a depth of knowledge about the game—learned from his adopted father, Mookie Wilson—that was far greater than many of his peers had.

“I just remember always wanting to work. Baseball is this whole world of information; it’s not just talent, it’s information. The work is not always on the field, sometimes it’s who you talk to and the information you gather. I remember being in the minor leagues and every time I saw someone that I respected or I liked from watching when I was younger or that I knew anything about the way they went about the game or their philosophies, I would ask them questions,” he recalls. “I remember going to George Hendrick, who was coaching for the Cardinals at the time, in Savannah, Georgia and saying, ‘Is there anything that you can let me know that I am doing wrong or might be able to do better? Anything I can make an adjustment with? After the series, send me a note after we’re done playing you guys.’ I started with that and it kind of went on from there, because every time I saw somebody (like Hendrick) I would do it. I would say probably 90 percent of the time, I got some type of answer back.”

“Everything doesn’t fit your body type or your philosophy or your swing, but as a player you need to be able to be open and listen and learn. I also remember being in the cage all of the time just trying to understand myself. Because when you’re young the biggest thing is understanding what you’re capable of and, even bigger, understanding what you’re not capable of. Where are the holes in your swing? What do you need to fix? What do you need to make better? That comes with just work and understanding yourself,” Wilson said.

So after 108 minor-league homers in parts of six seasons, he found himself in the big leagues with the Mets and then the Marlins, following a trade involving Mike Piazza. There were a pair of occasions on his journey when he gained the solid footing in the belief that he truly belonged at the highest level.

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<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Inf... (08/21)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article The View from the Loge... (08/15)
Next Column >>
Premium Article The View from the Loge... (08/29)
Next Article >>
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit Lis... (08/22)

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