The Cubs’ system, like any other, has several prospects with elite physical talent. But making it to the big leagues isn’t just about being toolsy, it requires a great deal of work to really focus and harness those abilities. One Cubs prospect in particular may be on the cusp of figuring things out.
When the Cubs drafted D.J. Wilson in the fourth round in 2015, the former Vanderbilt commit stuck out for his athleticism. At 5-foot-8 and 177 pounds, he is solidly built with exceptional speed and his arm has improved over the last four summers. However, his bat has been inconsistent at best and he has struggled with injuries on and off the past two years.
But something is different about him when he’s healthy. The 21-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder looked to be on the verge of busting out a year ago and he had a nice stretch in July of 2017 when he hit .284 with seven home runs and 21 RBI. That was enough to earn the organization’s MiLB Player of the Month honor, but staying on the field has still been an issue.
He missed from two months from mid-April to mid-June and was also sidelined for most of the second half of July. But in 15 July games, he hit .311 with a .382 OBP and five steals. He didn’t hit any home runs, but those will come. The big issue is just getting consistent at-bats, so we’ll see what he does the rest of August if he can indeed stay on the field.
In addition to his speed, Wilson can really square up the baseball. He hit three home runs his rookie year in Mesa and did the same at Eugene in 2016. Then he cranked out nine homers despite missing a large portion of the following season at South Bend. In 2018 at Myrtle Beach, he’s only played in 43 games and therefore only has one home run.
Wilson stands out from all the other players on the field because he really does possess all the necessary tools to make it. He can track down fly balls and throw runners out can slap single or launch dingers, and he can steal a base if needed. Not too many players in the Cubs’ system can do all those things. Wilson is one of those prospects who, if he can stay healthy enough to play every night, could be really, really special.
One thing you have to understand is that Wilson started his pro career at just 17 years old. Cub fans have been spoiled by fast-rising prospects the past six years, several of whom had college experience and were a bit more mature. But most MLB players don’t appear in the majors until they are 24 or 25.
I would love to see Wilson in the Arizona Fall League as I think that would challenge him and make up for some lost time. If he figures it out and develops consistency, he could make short work of Tennessee next year. But again, the key is he has to stay healthy.