JJ Wetherholt wasn’t necessarily a top recruit coming out of the Pennsylvania high school ranks. West Virginia was his first college baseball offer, and he verbally committed to the program before his sophomore year of high school.
Five years later, no one would know that Wetherholt was lightly recruited. He’s arguably the best hitter in college baseball as he enters his junior season at West Virginia. He has experienced tremendous growth and success in his first two years in college.
Scouts project the talented second baseman as a potential first-overall pick in the 2024 MLB draft due to his well-rounded skill set, tremendous feel at the plate and potential. Despite his prospect status, Wetherholt rarely reflects on his success and remains focused on the present.
“I don’t really take a step back and look at who I am because I want to get better and have dreams to play professional baseball,” Wetherholt said. “I’m pretty far from those dreams and have to continue to find ways to get better and better.”
Wetherholt has been a fixture in West Virginia’s lineup since stepping on campus. As a freshman in 2022, Wetherholt hit .308 with 17 doubles, five home runs, 39 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 208 at-bats. He grew last year, batting .449 with 24 doubles, 16 home runs, 60 RBIs and 36 stolen bases in 225 at-bats.
Wetherholt displayed a mature approach and confidence at the plate last year. He had 43 strikeouts and 26 walks as a freshman and then posted 22 strikeouts and 26 walks as a sophomore.
His improvements at the plate have led to him receiving additional attention in anticipation of the 2024 draft.
“I have always been trying to stay under the radar and work hard,” Wetherholt said. “I don’t think a lot of people have always known who I was, especially coming out of high school. Last year, with the national attention I got, I think it was something I really didn’t expect. I was just hoping to build off my freshman year and have a solid year. Last year was a blow-up year. It’s not like I didn’t think it was possible, but it went really well. It was a big jump. It did beat my expectations a little bit.”
Wetherholt is a 5-foot-11, 200-pound left-handed hitting second baseman with strong tools at the plate. He uses a quick, compact swing to consistently barrel up the baseball. He also has advanced bat-to-ball skills and can drive the baseball hard to all fields.
In his time at West Virginia, Wetherholt refined his swing mechanics, tightened his swing against breaking pitches and improved his power potential. Wetherholt is a talented hitter who is only improving as he matures and gains additional experience against premium pitching.
“My ability to hit the ball to all fields is my biggest strength,” Wetherholt said. “I can hit almost any pitch that is thrown to me. I don’t try to get-pull happy or opposite-field happy. It’s just in the middle. I also don’t take at-bats off and just try to barrel up the baseball consistently.”
Defensively, Wetherholt has gained position versatility in college. He has played second base, third base and outfield over the last three years. He is willing to play any position but is most comfortable at second base.
Wetherholt is athletic and has respectable arm strength to handle an up-the-middle position. He likely projects best at second base in pro ball.
“Defensively, whether that it is playing a different position or whatever it is, being more confident in the field and trusting my ability,” Wetherholt said. “In the field, I can sometimes get nervous, but at the plate, I feel pretty confident in every situation. So that is a mental thing I can get better at defensively.”
Last year, West Virginia made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019. Despite achieving their goal of qualifying for the tournament, the Mountaineers struggled down the stretch, dropping seven of their last eight games to finish with a 40-20 record.
Wetherholt believes last year’s ending can be a learning experience and help them this season. The Mountaineers hope to return to the tournament and qualify for the super regionals for the first time in program history.
“I want to have a similar season to last year,” Wetherholt said. “My big thing is that I want to end the year better. Last year, we were 1-7 in our last eight games after winning 39 games, which is really brutal. We have the talent to do so. We need some guys to step up. Just in general, I would like to see us finish strong, get into the postseason and go deeper in the postseason this year.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for nine years. He has interviewed 518 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com, The Arizona Republic and The Dallas Morning News, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.