Justin James Wilson
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 3", Weight 210 lb.
- School Fresno State
- High School Buchanan High School (Clovis, CA)
- Debut August 20, 2012
Wilson hit .350 in high school as a 1B/P. The Los Angeles Dodgers took him in the 37th round of the 2005 amateur draft and he went on to college instead. In 2006, Justin struck out 34 in 25 innings as a freshman and had a 3.60 ERA and no decisions. He hit .412/.474/.588 in 19 plate appearances. Moved full-time to pitching in 2007, he responded by going 9-5 with a 3.19 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 101 2/3 IP. He led the Western Athletic Conference in ERA and made the All-Conference team. Wilson fell to 8-5, 4.34 in 2008 but he saved his best for last. Called on in the final game of the 2008 College World Series, he held the University of Georgia scoreless for 7 before a Gordon Beckham solo homer and got the win as Fresno State won its first College World Series. Wilson was named to the All-Tournament team.
Prior to the 2008 CWS, the Pittsburgh Pirates picked Wilson in the 5th round of the 2008 amateur draft. After his 2008 CWS gem, Wilson and the Pirates apparently failed to come to terms. Pirates GM Neal Huntington said "He's decided he's worth a lot more than fifth-round money because of his heroics." Scouted by Sean Campbell, the club and Wilson worked out their differences as Wilson signed for a $195,000 bonus, typical for a 5th round pick.
Wilson was called up to make his debut with the Pirates on August 20, 2012, one day after the Pirates had played a 19-inning marathon against the St. Louis Cardinals that had depleted their pitching staff. He was called on to pitch in relief on his first day in the big leagues, succeeding on the mound Kyle McPherson who had made his own debut earlier in the game against the San Diego Padres. Justin recorded all three outs by strikeout in his first major league appearance, wrapped around a pair of singles.
On November 12, 2014, he was traded to the New York Yankees in return for C Francisco Cervelli. He had a solid season for the Yankees in 2015, making 74 appearances out of the bullpen with a 5-0 record and a 3.10 ERA. He also struck out 66 batters in 61 innings. However, on December 9th, he was traded again, this time to the Detroit Tigers for prospects Luis Cessa and Chad Green. He made 66 appearances for Detroit in 2016, serving as a set-up man for Francisco Rodriguez. He went 4-5, 4.14 with his first major league save and 65 Ks in 58 2/3 innings. In 2017, Rodriguez faltered and lost the closer's job, which fell into Justin's lap. He did well, with 13 saves in 15 opportunities, to go along with a record of 3-4, 2.68 in 42 games. He did not allow a hit in his first 11 appearances that season, tying a record held by John Franco (1987) and Scott Aldred (1999), and later broken by Josh Hader. With the Tigers starting to re-build, he became trade bait and on July 30th was sent to the Chicago Cubs along with C Alex Avila in return for two prospects, Jeimer Candelario and Isaac Paredes. In 23 games, he went 1-0, 5.09, pitching 17 2/3 innings. He appeared just once in the postseason, pitching two-thirds of an inning in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals and retiring both batters he faced.
Justin was again with the Cubs in 2018, going 4-5, 3.46 with no saves in 71 appearances. He was used more as a LOOGY than had previously been the case, as he logged just 54 2/3 innings, during which he struck out 69 batters but also walked 33. He pitched in the Wild Card Game that year, retiring the only Colorado Rockies batter he faced in the Cubs' extra-innings loss. He became a free agent for the first time after the season and on January 28, 2019 he signed with the New York Mets. His first season in Queens was a good one, as he was 4-2, 2.54 with 4 saves in 45 games, easily outpitching bigger names in the bullpen like Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia. In the shortened 2020 season, he was 2-1, 3.66 in 23 games. Both years, he struck out over a batter per inning. On February 14, 2021, he moved across town, re-joining the Yankees for a second tour of duty in pinstripes. It lasted just four months, however, as on July 27th, he and fellow reliever Luis Cessa were traded to the Cincinnati Reds for a player to be named later. Justin was 1-1 with a high 7.50 ERA at the time, albeit in just 18 innings. It seemed that the Yankees' main objective was to clear some salary space in prevision of another acquisition.
- 2008 Baseball Almanac
- Fresno State bio
- The Baseball Cube
- 7/14/08 and 8/15/08 editions of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- Jay Cohen (Associated Press): "Cubs hoping Justin Wilson can regain his form", USA Today Sports, March 5, 2018.