North Carolina State has produced shortstops Trea Turner and Joe Dunand, the nephew of Alex Rodriguez, in the last five years. Turner was the 13th overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft, and Dunand went in the second round in 2017.
Will Wilson is the latest well-regarded shortstop to develop into a high-end draft prospect at North Carolina State. The 6-foot, 184-pound junior likely will be a first-round pick in June’s draft.
“From watching the guys the last two years go through it, it’s helped me come here every day and focus on getting better,” Wilson said. “Guys have come back, even Trea Turner, and you can talk to them on how they handled it and went through it.”
Despite his size, Wilson’s best trait is his hitting ability. The right-handed hitter consistently puts the barrel on the ball. He also hits for average and above-average power, which is why he will likely go early in the draft.
Wilson could draw more walks, as he’s drawn 52 walks compared to striking out 91 times in 478 at-bats in his first two seasons at North Carolina State.
“Just growing up, my dad and grandpa really taught me to hit,” Wilson said. “Coming to a school where they let you swing the bat how you want to helps. They recruit guys that hit, and they’ve let me play my game, which has helped it become a big tool for me.”
The one knock on Wilson is his defense. Although has the arm strength and instincts to play shortstop, his below-average speed has caused professional scouts to wonder if he profiles better at second base.
Wilson committed 18 errors at shortstop last season, after making seven errors as a second baseman in 2017.
“I had more errors than I would have liked to last year,” Wilson said. “I’m just trying to develop more consistency defensively. It’s something I’m working towards.”
Wilson has shown growth defensively this season, committing one error in 51 chances for a .986 fielding percentage. He believes he can stick at shortstop in the professional ranks, though.
“This school has helped me develop my baseball IQ,” he said. “They’ve helped me become just a good ballplayer and not necessarily a great athlete on the field. But just someone who understands the game and can get themselves in the right position to make plays.”
Wilson hit .300 with eight home runs and 48 RBIs in 240 at-bats as a freshman in 2017. He also struck out 50 times compared to 25 walks.
He showed growth at the plate as a sophomore last season. He was one of the top players in the Atlantic Coast Conference and finished the year with a .307 batting average, 15 home runs and 53 RBIs in 238 at-bats. He also showed slight improvement in his plate discipline, as he struck out 41 times and tallied 27 walks.
Wilson has been a major reason for North Carolina State’s 19-1 record this season. He has a .313 batting average with four home runs and 19 RBIs in 83 at-bats. He has struck out 15 times compared to 13 walks, though.
The Wolfpack won their first 19 games before losing to Florida State on Sunday. They’ve made three straight NCAA Tournament appearances but have failed to advance farther than the regional each time.
“We’ve been stuck in a regional the last two years, and I’d really like to get past the regional this year,” Wilson said. “Hopefully, we can get hot at a good time or stay hot the entire season and make a run.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for four years. He’s interviewed 133 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.