In his first three years at East Carolina, Gavin Williams was primarily a reliever appearing in 38 games but just five starts. This season the big right-hander has proven he can handle a rotation spot. Not only has he been durable, but Williams has also been downright great in 2021 and has entered the first-round conversation.
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Gavin Williams, RHP, East Carolina
Weight: 240 lbs.
2018: 15 G, 0-0, 1.15 ERA, 9/7 K/BB rate in 15.2 IP
2019: 21 G (5 starts), 1-4, 4.56 ERA, 56/23 K/BB rate in 49.1 IP
2020: 2 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 5/2 K/BB rate in 3 IP
2021: 15 G (12 starts) 10-1, 1.88 ERA, 130/21 K/BB rate in 81.1 IP
Gavin Williams and his East Carolina Pirates recently battled probable top-5 pick Kumar Rocker and the Vanderbilt Commodores in the Super Regionals. Even though the Pirates fell 2-0, Williams showed why he is going in the top 50 next month. The 21-year-old was pulled in the seventh inning but struck out 13 and was still hitting 97 mph on his 100th pitch of the day.
It all starts with the fastball for Williams. Everything about the pitch is excellent. He can hit triple-digits with it and sits 94-97. The Pirates ace commands it well, locating the heater wherever he wants to with some ride to the arm side. Williams’s curveball has improved. It was a little more loopy before this season but he has tightened the spin on it and now it is a plus pitch with late bite. The curve also works well off of his fastball because of the velocity differential as he spins his second-best pitch in the upper 70s.
Williams has cleaned up his delivery as well. He has found repeatability and has great leg drive using his large frame to generate easy power. At 6-foot-6, the North Carolina native comes from a high arm slot which gives his pitches a downward angle that hitters have trouble lifting with any success. He has allowed three homers this season and only seven in his 149.1 career innings at East Carolina. The flamethrower’s body is built for durability, and he has shown that he can handle a full-season workload and still fire it up there.
While Williams has improved greatly this season, there are still some questions of whether he can be a mid-rotation guy. It isn’t so much about durability, it is more that his other secondary pitches are pretty average right now. His slider has improved to a mid-80s offering and his changeup has shown some improvement. He will need to continue to improve his command with both of those pitches to allow him to mix up his repertoire the second and third time through major-league lineups.
Pro Comparison: Lance Lynn
When Lynn came out of the Univerity of Mississippi he was strictly a fastball-curveball pitcher who sat around 95 with his heater and 78 with the curve. He made it work with good control and solid command. Williams is a similar pitcher with a similar build and probably throws a little harder than Lynn. The White Sox starter was selected 39th overall in 2008 by the St. Louis Cardinals and I expect Williams to be taken in that same vicinity in July.
Draft Projection: Round 1, Pick 30, Cincinnati Reds
The Reds use their compensatory pick from the Los Angeles Dodgers on the big right-hander. After taking their catcher of the future earlier in Joe Mack with the 17th pick, now they add a big arm to go with rising stars Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo. With picks 35 and 53 as well, Cincinnati is building something good and could very well be a machine once again.
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