Adam Wilk was one of several pitchers to make his major league debut with the Tigers during the 2011 season. After an impressive performance in spring training where he allowed just one earned run in eleven innings of work as a non-roster invitee, the Tigers kept an eye on Wilk’s performance in the minors and recalled him on the same day that they designated Robbie Weinhardt for assignment, that Phil Coke went on the disabled list, and that Ryan Perry was optioned to Toledo.
Although he had spent his professional career as a starter, Wilk was called up as a player in the game of musical chairs known as the Tigers' bullpen. His first call up with the Tigers was short lived, as they soon traded for Oakland reliever David Purcey, and Wilk was optioned back to Toledo just four days after he had been called up to the show. Wilk made just one appearance on that occasion, going 3.2 scoreless innings in a 14- 1 loss to the Red Sox, the team’s worst loss of the season. He managed to strike out four, allowing two hits and a walk.
Wilk bounced from the minors to the majors and back twice more before the 2011 season was over, making four more appearances for a total of 13.1 innings for the season, all in relief. In three consecutive appearances in June, he allowed a home run, driving his ERA up to 5.40, but allowing only two more walks in one final appearance in July, for a total of only three walks for the season.
Wilk is a control pitcher. He does not have the velocity, nor the upside, of Turner, Oliver, or Crosby. But he does one thing better than any of them, and that is throw strikes. In three minor league seasons, he sports a 2.62 ERA with a WHIP of just 1.02, and still has a respectable K/9 rate of 6.7 and a K/BB ratio of 5.71. Those stats compare favorably with any of the other candidates for fifth and final spot in the the Tigers’ 2012 rotation. Mark Anderson of Tigstown.com named Wilk as the pitcher with the best command in the Tiger organization.
If Wilk could bring those numbers with him to the major leagues, he should be an easy choice to win the rotation competition. Obviously, that is easier said than done. I have yet to see a scouting report that has Wilk being anything other than a back of the rotation starter or long to middle reliever in the major leagues. He has a below average fastball, along with a curve and a good change up. All he does is throw strikes, but that leaves him little room for error in the major leagues.
The Tigers chose Wilk with the eleventh pick in the 2009 amateur draft out of Long Beach State. He is a 6-foot-2, 185-pound lefty from Anaheim, and he didn’t get a big bonus to sign. Still, he progressed quickly through the organization.
Like fellow fifth spot contenders Duane Below and Drew Smyly, Wilk has a "pitcher of the year" award on his mantel. The fifth spot in the rotation has Jacob Turner’s name on it, if Turner is ready. If not, one of five lefties will likely claim the fifth and final spot. If the decision is based on velocity, Wilk has no shot. Based on command, he is the odds on favorite.