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Giants' unique trade for prospect Wilson paying off so far

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Will Wilson was the key to the most interesting trade of the Farhan Zaidi era, and in 15 months with the Giants he has put on the orange and black in Scottsdale Stadium, Oracle Park, the instructional league and the alternate camp held at the team's Triple-A ballpark. 

What he has not done, somehow, is take an at-bat for the Giants in a professional game that counts towards the standings or shows up on his Baseball Reference page. Wilson seems like a pretty familiar face at this point, but his last minor league game was for the Angels, about four months before they shipped the first-round pick to the Giants, who gladly took on more than $12 million of Zack Cozart's contract to add another top prospect. 

That trade was creative at the time. In hindsight, it looks pretty brilliant. Wilson, a 22-year-old infielder, generally comes in right at the back end of a now-loaded organizational top 10 prospect list. Somewhere in front of him, you always find catcher Patrick Bailey, who was a year behind Wilson at North Carolina State. Somewhere after Wilson, you find left-hander Nick Swiney, another NC State player selected by the Giants in the 2020 draft. 

Wilson was happy to see the Giants add two former teammates, including Bailey, who was in his wedding. He said they've talked some about traveling through the minors together. 

"Getting out in instructs where all three of us were together last year was pretty cool," he said on a Zoom call Wednesday. "It's just tough with so much up in the air with the minor league season and stuff like that -- no one really knows what's going to go on there. But it would be great to play with those guys again and hopefully we get the chance to do it at any level and hopefully the big league level, too."

 

Wilson, a non-roster invitee this spring, might be the closest of the trio to the big leagues. He played 46 games of rookie league ball for the Angels after getting taken 15th overall in 2019 and ever since has gotten an advanced course in hitting. Wilson was brought to San Francisco for Spring Training 2.0 and then spent two months with much more experienced players at the alternate site. 

"For me it was just about settling in and seeing the top tier pitching and the speed of play defensively," he said. "That was the big adjustment for me and I think I handled it pretty well. Hopefully I can come out here and just carry it over from what I learned last summer."

What the Giants saw last summer was a solid defender with an ability to barrel up the ball. This spring, they've seen a different, improved version of Wilson. The staff challenged him to become more agile and quicker with his offseason workouts so he could more easily handle shortstop, and during the first week of camp manager Gabe Kapler credited Wilson for attacking changes. 

"He put in a ton of work this offseason. He came in in fantastic shape, and you can see it in the way his body is moving, in particular with his hips and the way they're kind of starting the swing, and then you're seeing the ball carry across the diamond (on throws)," Kapler said Wednesday. "It's a talented young player who has some development left but has impressed every time we've seen him, and in particular he came into camp in great shape. He made body changes that we asked him to make and he was diligent throughout the offseason in getting to those changes."

The work will allow the Giants to keep chasing multiple paths with Wilson. While their top prospect, Marco Luciano, is a shortstop, the Giants also believe Wilson can handle the position. Kapler also sees him as a good option at second or third. 

Quickly reaching the majors at any of those positions could fill a hole. Brandon Crawford and Donovan Solano are free agents after this season and Evan Longoria has one more year left. The Giants hold a club option on Wilmer Flores for 2022. With the exception of Tommy La Stella, they're headed for a mostly blank slate on the infield, with the hope that players like Luciano and Wilson can settle in and allow the front office to use resources elsewhere. 

 
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Wilson's path to the Giants was a unique one, but maybe this is the way it was supposed to play out. The front office considered him with the 10th overall pick in 2019 before settling on Hunter Bishop. Now they're both in the organization, along with Bailey and Swiney and other familiar faces Wilson will play with on the path to the big leagues. 

"Obviously the draft plays out in some weird, mysterious ways," he said. "Everything worked out, and I'm here now and that's what I'm happy about."

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