As the San Diego Padres search for bullpen help in 2021, Steven Wilson could be a major factor.
In the 2018 MLB Draft, the San Diego Padres made a move to select a sixth-year senior named Steven Wilson out of Santa Clara University in the eighth round.
The fact that he played in the 2017-2018 campaign was a testament to his sheer determination to pitch. Prior to his redshirt senior season, Wilson suffered a shoulder injury that required Tommy John surgery.
He came back strong, however, pitching to a 3.07 ERA in 44 innings while boasting a team-high 2.52 K:BB ratio (53 strikeouts against 23 walks).
It is this determination that has pushed him this far in his career.
Despite struggling in his first taste of pro ball (albeit with a sample size of eight innings), San Diego tested him out by starting him in High-A Lake Elsinore to begin the 2019 campaign.
Appearing exclusively out of the bullpen, Wilson pitched to a sterling 0.93 ERA in 28 innings of relief while posting a 10.75 K:BB by striking out 43 batters and walking four.
After not allowing a run in 14.2 consecutive innings (and striking out 24 batters in the process), San Diego made the decision to give him a promotion.
Not just a promotion to Double-A Amarillo, though. No, Wilson was going to bypass the Texas League altogether in favor of Triple-A El Paso and the California League.
In a notoriously hitter-friendly environment against older competition, Wilson regressed. Despite batters hitting just .213 against him, Wilson posted a 4.11 ERA in 35 innings with a 1.91 K:BB ratio. Opponents also clubbed five home runs against him, although that may be attributed to Triple-A baseball’s environment.
Despite this roadblock, San Diego invited Wilson to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. He pitched two scoreless innings before Spring Training was canceled due to coronavirus.
The Padres showed faith in him by inviting him to their Alternate Training Site at the University of San Diego. After spending the year at USD, Wilson went to the Dominican Republic to spend his winter with the Leones del Escogido, where he has currently pitched 13 innings and compiled a 1.38 ERA with 15 strikeouts, two walks, and five saves.
So, where does that leave Steven Wilson when the 2021 season begins?
For starters, he has some factors working in his favor. Thanks to his success in the Dominican League and his prior invite to Spring Training, it makes sense for Wilson to receive a second invitation to Arizona.
However, the Padres already have a packed bullpen as it is, so it’s an uphill battle for Wilson to earn a potential spot as a middle reliever.
Despite the full bullpen and barring injuries, Wilson should start the 2021 season with Triple-A El Paso. If a Padres reliever goes down with an injury, Wilson has a good chance to get the call to make his Major League debut.