MMO Free Agent Profile: Justin Wilson, LHP

Justin Wilson

Position: Relief Pitcher
Bats/Throws: L/L
Age: August 18, 1987 (31)

Traditional Stats: 4-5, 3.46 ERA, 71 G, 54.2 IP, 1.427 WHIP, 5.4 BB/9, 11.4 K/9
Advanced Stats: 0.7 bWAR, 0.5 fWAR, 124 ERA+, 3.64 FIP

While Wilson has served in a variety of roles out of the bullpen over the years, upon joining the Chicago Cubs, he has primarily served as the Cubs’ LOOGY. Maybe it is a function of how he has been used, or it is a deterioration of his ability, but Wilson has actually had the splits of a LOOGY.

Last season, left-handed batters hit .190/.301/.342 wheras right-handed batters hit .244/.350/.358. What is interesting is his splits were reversed in 2017, the year in which the Cubs had obtained him to help them in the postseason. In 2017, left-handed batters hit .234/.342/.359 whereas right-handed batters hit .170/.219/.313.  For his career, Wilson has been platoon neutral.

Over his seven year career, left-handed batters hit .241/.291/.345 off of him, and right-handed batters hit .211/.305/.323. When you break it down, you should question why the Cubs utilized him as a LOOGY. There are bigger questions about his ability to get the big left-handed batters out when you see how big left-handed batters hit off of him:

It should be noted these are such small sample sizes, and Wilson has good numbers against players like Daniel Murphy.  The other issue is with the free agent market, you cannot be quite sure who and who will be in Wilson’s next division. What we do know is Wilson has been a pitcher who has pitched well in pressure situations.

As the closer for the Tigers, he converted 13 of his 15 save opportunities. With two outs and RISP, batters are only hitting .187/.286/.289 off of him. In the postseason, Wilson is 0-0 with a 1.69 ERA.

The main reason for his success in these situations is Wilson is a strikeout pitcher. From 2014 to the present, he has struck out over a batter an inning, and over the past two seasons, he has struck out 11.9 batters per nine. The converse of that is Wilson does walk many batters with his lowest BB/9 being 3.0.  Over the past two years, that number has been 5.4.

Overall, Wilson is a 31 year old pitcher equipped with a 95+ MPH fastball who generally keeps the ball on the ground and in the ballpark. More than that, he is difficult to hit with his 28.4 hard hit ball percent being the fifth best among free agent relievers. He is also someone who has taken on a number or roles and has been extremely successful in each one of those roles.

Contract

MLB Trade Rumors has ranked two different left-handed relievers above Wilson, who was not among their top 50. Zach Britton is expected to receive a three year $33 million deal. Andrew Miller is expected to received a three year deal worth $27 million. Of the two, Miller is the better comp for Wilson as both pitchers have served in and thrived in a number of roles.

If Miller is worth $9 million a season, you can expect Wilson to receive a deal in the $7-$9 million range as he is two years younger, and he is not coming off an injury.

However, that numbers does seen light. Last year, the Rockies gave Jake McGee a three year deal with $27 million. Generally speaking, reliever prices have been going up each offseason. With that in mind, we can reasonably expect Wilson to be in the $9 million range with Miller higher than that.

Recommendation

With the way Mickey Callaway likes to use his bullpen, and with a movement towards increased bullpen use, Wilson is an extremely valuable commodity. He is a guy you can use to close games, get the big left-handed batter in the lineup, or to come in to get a needed strikeout.

Considering the Mets need for versatile relievers, left-handed batters in the bullpen, and guys who can strike batters out, Wilson should be near the top of free agent targets this offseason.

About John Sheridan 708 Articles
John was raised to be a Mets fan by birth, and now he is raising a Mets fan of his own. He also uses Sabermetrics to either confirm the proverbial eye test or to see if we're seeing things with Mets colored glasses. He looks forward to bringing this perspective to MMO. His work, including the tales of raising his son a Mets fan, can also be seen at MetsDaddy.com.