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Wagner Avoiding Lost Year With Torrid Pace Since IL Return

A popular top-10 pick after a strong 2022, Will Wagner has missed much of this season with injuries. Since returning to Corpus earlier this month, he has sought to make up for lost time.

Syndication: The Corpus Christi Caller Times Angela Piazza/Caller-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

Despite his outstanding bloodlines, Will Wagner entered the Astros farm system with little fanfare as an 18th round pick in the 2021 draft. Wagner put together a strong track record of college hitting with Liberty, but a limited defensive profile, older age and questionable power made him a marginal pro prospect, allowing the Astros to bring him in with minimal investment. While his pro debut didn’t do anything to reshape his pro projection, his production translated readily- starting his career with Low-A Fayetteville, Wagner managed a .299/.388/.436 slash line in a 31 game trial down the stretch, pushing himself out of afterthought territory entering his first pro offseason.

The debut was strong enough for Wagner to start 2022 with High-A, where he continued to produce on the back of outstanding pitch selection- in 45 games, he hit .276/.392/.405 with 32 walks against 41 Ks in 199 PAs. He continued to show marginal power, but managed enough meaningful contact hit for a solid average, and showed enough on defense to project for legitimate versatility. The Astros were impressed enough to push him to Double-A quickly, where he maintained similar production posting a .251/.361/.386 line. He hadn’t exactly set the world on fire, but it was quite a solid performance in context- he had less than 350 pro PAs, so maintaining a contact rate north of 80% in his first Double-A stint was quite impressive, and created some hype heading into the offseason.

Wagner was able to build on that with his trip to the Arizona Fall League, where he hit a scorching .346/.433/.712 with 11 extra base hits in 60 PAs, punctuating a highly successful first full season. Over the winter, there was some hope that with a continuation of his previous pace, Wagner could earn a swift promotion to Triple-A and potentially even Houston before the 2023 season concluded. Unfortunately, Wagner would face his first pro adversity in the form of an injury that held him out from late May until just a couple of weeks ago, and his path to big league playing time was also muddied by other players’ performance. However, since returning, Wagner has continued to do what he has done since stepping onto a pro field for the first time- get on base at a high clip with minimal swing and miss. Despite the long layoff, Wagner has enjoyed perhaps his best stretch at the Double-A level with the bat of late, hitting .389/.463/.722 since coming off of his rehab assignment in the FCL, with 5 walks and 10 strikeouts in 46 PAs.

It continues to be fair to question Wagner’s potential for impact- thus far, he has offered little evidence that he can be a significant home run threat in the pro game, but he has proven fairly definitively that his contact ability and discerning eye play at any level, and while he’s not a standout defender at any position, he offers enough ability at multiple valuable spots that he should be able to act as a versatile bench piece who will endear himself to managers. While there is competition in this kind of role from the likes of Joey Loperfido and incumbent Mauricio Dubon, Wagner is likely the best pure on-base threat of the bunch, and has solidified himself in the top half of the organizational top 30 through a truncated campaign despite a lot of movement in the system. His timeline may have been a bit delayed by the prolonged absence, but his projection is unaffected.