6/7/2014 10:50 P.M. ET
Rays' 24th-round pick Wilson emerges after eye exam
By David Adler / MLB.com
Nic Wilson needed to see the ball better -- quite literally.
The Rays on Saturday drafted the 6-foot-6, 240-pound power-hitting first baseman with the 727th pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, in the 24th round, and he could end up being a steal.
Rays director of scouting R.J. Harrison said Wilson probably went as low as he did because of the category of player he falls into.
"Well, he's a senior, and, you know, I would say that every year there are a number of big slugging senior first basemen in college baseball," Harrison said. "This is one that our scout had interest in."
Wilson cracked 18 home runs in his senior season at Georgia State, fourth most in the NCAA -- and one spot ahead of Tampa Bay's first-round pick, Casey Gillaspie, who hit 15. Wilson batted .322, had a .683 slugging percentage and drove in 52 runs. He ranked in the top 10 in the Sun Belt in slugging, on-base percentage, home runs, RBIs, runs, doubles and walks.
It was a huge jump from his 2013 numbers -- Wilson batted just .247 with eight homers and 32 RBIs as a junior -- and he's the last person who could have seen it coming.
According to a report by CollegeBaseballCentral.com, between his junior and senior seasons, Wilson went for an eye exam -- and he was diagnosed with astigmatism in both eyes.
He was fitted for glasses, and lo and behold, Wilson's numbers skyrocketed (after a brief adjustment period to the glasses in summer ball, where Wilson said he started out 2-for-30). Being able to zero in on the ball coming out of the pitcher's hand might have had something to do with it.
Wilson was a perfect target for the Rays in the later rounds, because, as Harrison said, on the third day of the Draft, the team looks for "big tools."
"I mean, he's a great big human being," Harrison said. "I've never seen him, but sounds to me like he's got tremendous raw power."
The Rays could use an infusion of power into their farm system. Of the Rays' current top 20 prospects, only two grade out as above-average power hitters: catcher Nick Ciuffo (drafted in 2013, 21st overall) and corner infielder Richie Shaffer (drafted in 2012, 25th overall).
Wilson's 2014 highlights included a three-homer game on his Senior Day, March 4, against South Alabama -- which tied a Georgia State and Sun Belt Conference single-game record. He also homered twice in Georgia State's series against Louisiana-Lafayette, which is now a national seed playing in the NCAA Tournament Super Regionals.
Wilson was named a 2014 second-team All-American by Louisville Slugger, and was twice named Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week.
Now he'll get a chance to prove himself in the Rays' system, which, Harrison noted, will have power-hitting first basemen at all three of its half-season Minor League clubs after the Draft and Tampa Bay's upcoming undrafted free-agent signings.
"We have a spot for him," Harrison said, "so it'll be fun to send him out and see what happens."
David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.