Introducing John Stilson, Pick #108 in the 2011 Draft

Since the signing deadline has passed and it’s now time to take a more in-depth account of exactly what it is the Jays brought into the organization, I will be researching and evaluating each SIGNED pick from the 2011 class for the Jays. It’s a lengthy process, and some of them may take a little longer to bring together due to lack of information, but hopefully we’ll have it all done well before we bring out our “End of 2011 Top 50 Jays Prospects, JJ edition.” Each time a new article is completed, you’ll have access to it on JJ, through Tweet, and can access the entire 2011 class and our write ups on them here.

Below is everything I could gather about the Jays 108th pick, John Stilson.

Introducing Pick #108: John Jacob Stilson

Right-Handed Pitcher / 6’3″ 195 lbs / Texas

Birth Date: 28th of July 1990, 21 years old

College: Texas A&M

Signed for: $500,000

Quick Facts:

  • Son of Tommy and Lorna Stilson from Texarkana, Texas.
  • Grew up as, and still is, a huge Cubs fan.
  • Played SS in high school, and did so until he went to College.
  • Also played football and basketball in high school.
  • Has already been drafted once before in 2009 as a SS, by the Twins in the 19th round.
  • Majored in Fisheries and Wildlife in College.
  • 2009 NJCAA All-American.
  • 2010 Big-12 Newcomer of the Year.
  • 2010 1st Team All-Big 12.
  • 2010 Louisville Slugger 2nd Team All-American.
  • 2010 Collegiate Baseball 2nd Team All-American.
  • 2011 Louisville Slugger 1st Team Preseason All-American.
  • 2011 Baseball America 2nd Team Preseason All-American.
  • 2011 Golden Spikes Award Watch List.
  • Wants to own a ranch some day and enjoys fishing, hunting, bowling, and golfing.
  • Currently rooms with Daniel Norris as part of the GCL staff.

Stats:

  • 2010: 9-1, 10 saves, 0.80 ERA, 79 IP, 51 hits,  23 BB, 114 Ks, 2 HR, .181 avg
  • 2011: 5-2, 1 saves, 1 CG, 1.68 ERA, 91.1 IP, 75 hits, 29 BB, 92 Ks, 1 HR, .229 avg

Interviews/Videos:

  • A Q&A with Steve Hunt (12 May ’10) available here.
  • You can see his MLB.com 2009 draft profile here.
  • You can see his MLB.com 2011 draft profile here.


Pre-Draft Rankings:

  • BA: #23 (before the injury, ahead of Tyler Anderson, Matthew Purke, and Henry Owens)
When I mention the name John Stilson to Jays fans or baseball fans in general, 3 things come to people’s heads immediately: his injury status, his top-notch pitching potential and pedigree, and the possibility of his becoming a closer in The Show. Therefore, I will cover all of these in order and will hopefully add to what you already know about this highly touted Jays prospect.
 
Injury Status
 
When the injury first occurred and was made public, the ceiling was falling in and everyone predicted his season was over and that his draft position was going to plummet. The injury itself is called SLAP (superior labrum from anterior to posterior) and is a tear in his throwing shoulder. It apparently first occurred in early May, and Jim Callis of Baseball America had this to say about how it may have developed:
“It’s impossible not to wonder if the way Stilson has been used in his Texas A&M career played a role in the deterioration of his shoulder. Most jarringly, last year in the Coral Gables Regional, Stilson threw three scoreless innings of relief against Dartmouth—interrupted by an hour-long rain delay—and came back later in the day to throw 3 2/3 scoreless innings against Miami. The Aggies rode him hard as a relief ace in 2010—he threw 79 innings over 33 appearances.”
When you consider that Texas A&M also had Barrett Loux come out of its system with injury issues strong enough to make him fail a physical after being drafted in 2010, this situation becomes historical in nature. Thankfully for Loux who has recovered and is now pitching in the minors, as well as Stilson who still was able to get drafted fairly high and get a decent bonus, both situations seem to be less serious than initially thought. In Stilson’s case, he got a second opinion from everyone’s favourite expert – Dr. James Andrews – and got the news he wanted, no surgery should be required and 6 weeks of rehab was the proposed remedy for his shoulder. The key words from Dr. Andrews are that “surgery may be avoided with…”, as there is no guarantee in this process that rehab will work.
 
However, when the most renowned surgeon in baseball says that rehab should work, we have to believe that there’s a great chance it will. The question I have now is whether the advice he gave Dustin McGowan also applies to John Stilson or not? He’s the one who proposed that knowing when you’re pitching and being able to gear up for the starts on a routine basis is much better for Dustin than to pitch in relief and not knowing when or if that will happen. If the same advice is given to John, that would differ from the role everyone has him pegged for at this point, which is as a future back end pitcher with closing potential.
 
We’ll see how the Jays use him in 2012 and whether or not they select the relief option, but the last news I had heard had them asking him not to throw until he was signed, so he has been working on his lower half, running ect..
 
Top-Notch Pitching Potential and Pedigree
 
If you look around all any reasearch you can find about John Stilson pre-injury, all of the scouting experts agree that Stilson had top-notch stuff and was set to be a 1st rounder in the 2011 draft. The only question all of them had was whether he’d start or close once he made it to the majors. In fact, Frank Anderson, coach of Oklahoma State, stated the following about Stilson when asked how impressed he was about him:

“That’s the best I’ve ever seen in our league, at least for one game. And they said that’s the best they’d ever seen him throw. I’ve been in the conference for a while, and I’ve seen some of the best come through here. I’m talking about Max Scherzer, Joba Chamberlain and any of the guys I coached at Texas. And that’s the best I’ve seen. He will go in the first round.”

To get this kind of response from a coach after only pitching for less than 2 years (at the time) is absolutely phenomenal. He now has 3 seasons of pitching under his belt.

One of the things that makes Stilson so great on the mound is the fact that he’s comfortable throwing 3 pitches in ANY count. He has so much confidence in his best 3 offerings, his 96-99 MPH fastball – change up – and his slider, that hitters have a hard time catching up to his fastball since he doesn’t have to throw it all that often. But, when he does thow it, people mention how impressive it is that he can still get so much movement on the fastball despite it being so fast, making it extremely hard to hit. Even with that dangerous fastball in his arsenal, Stilson still prefers his change up. Meanwhile, his slider is also rated a plus pitch, giving him a great combination of pitches to work with, all at different speeds. Some scouts also note that he works very quickly on the mound, maybe even extremely quickly, which is great for the people playing behind him.

Even with such an impressive arsenal and performance record, Stilson remains aware of the hard road ahead, pointing out the following:

“I feel like I have a long way to go in my development, which is a good thing. What comes about in the Draft will be what it is. I’m trying to focus on my game while taking it one day at a time.”
From all indications, Stilson has great makeup and is a very grouded individual. Although, he is also the type of person who also feeds off of pressure and likes to have the game in his hands, which leads me to my final point….
 
Future Closer?
 
As a pitcher with possible 3 plus pitches, you have to wonder whether or not the Jays will decide to bring Stilson up as a starter and see how things go. Like I said before, the Jays received advice that goes against the norm when they were told that having Dustin McGowan (who also has shoulder issues) pitch in the rotation was actually better for his arm than relieving due to it being on a regular schedule. Will the Jays receive similar advice about Stilson? That could be, although his issues are also not nearly as serious as McGowan’s, so time will tell. Whatever happens, I know that Stilson also wants to use the role that’s best for him long-term, since has has mentioned that:
“I want to play ball for the rest of my life”
So, if doctors say that relieving is best for his long-term health, I’m sure that he – and the Jays – will heed that advice even if he has mentioned that he’d do whatever the Jays ask of him. Speaking of the Jays, here are his thoughts on their drafting him:

“The Jays gave me a chance when most teams wrote me off. They drafted me and I really appreciated it,” Stilson said. “Now I want to go out there and prove the decision they made is right and show everybody what I can really do.”

My thoughts on Stilson are that the Jays will see how the rehab goes, get him examined thoroughly and back up to speed, and will take it from that point. If the coaching staff and doctors agree that he is best served by relieving, he’ll get a chance to become the best closing option the Jays have had in a very long time. Between him and Sam Dyson, the Jays will have some fast-moving pen prospects moving through the system, even if both carry health questions with them. However, there is still a good chance that the Jays will have him start as he makes his way through the minors. That would allow him to sharpen his pitches as a starter, and if he eventually needs to be moved to the pen, it will make him a better reliever with a better arsenal.

There is a chance that Stilson will get injured before ever making it to The Show and wil therefore take a very long time to make it through the minors. But, there’s no predicting that and I’m hoping for his sake and that of the Jays that he remains healthy.

Having said that, I do want to see Stilson come through like lightning and take hold of the closing role in Tom Henke like fashion. The Jays need to stop losing games in the late-innings, and if he and Dyson can provide the Jays with a great boost in the pen, it would resolve some big question marks for the team and could be a big portion of the missing link between a non-playoff Jays team and a playoff Jays team.

It’s a lot of pressure to put on a 3rd rounder, but John Stilson really is that good.

- MG

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