The Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired right-handed pitcher Trevor Williams from the Miami Marlins in exchange for right-handed pitcher Richard Mitchell, per a team press release. Williams posted a 4.00 ERA in 117 innings in Double-A last year at the age of 23, with a 6.8 K/9 and a 2.8 BB/9. He moved up to Triple-A at the end of the season and had a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings, with an 8.4 K/9 and a 4.5 BB/9.
Williams was rated the number eight prospect in the Marlins’ system at the end of last season, according to Baseball America. He’s 6′ 3″, 230 pounds and was a second round pick in 2013, signing for $1.26 M out of college. BA cited Marlins coaches who said Williams is a smart pitcher, with an advanced approach that makes up for a lack of stuff. He has a four-seam and a two-seam fastball, working in the low 90s and keeping the ball down in the zone. BA said he reaches 96 MPH in shorter outings, and has a drop-and-drive delivery, which is what Jameson Taillon has worked with over the years.
Along with the fastballs, Williams throws a cutter in the upper 80s, a changeup, and a low-70s curveball. BA said he could be an innings eating number four starter before the 2015 season started. BA said that he was more comfortable with the changeup than the curve, although comments from Williams during the 2015 season credited his successful outings to the curveball and slider, with a focus on improving his breaking pitches throughout the year.
Williams will join a mix of interesting pitchers and potential future rotation options in the upper levels of the system, along with guys like Chad Kuhl, Jason Creasy, Steven Brault, Tyler Eppler, and others with Indianapolis or Altoona. It’s unclear right now whether they would use him as a starter or a reliever. That will probably be determined next year during Spring Training, and my early guess is that he’ll be a starter. He doesn’t sound like a power arm, but sounds like a guy who can pitch, with a good assortment of stuff, and a smart approach. That’s not a bad thing, and can be a bit underrated, as the Pirates found with Steven Brault, who fits a similar profile from the left side.
Mitchell was signed by the Pirates as a 16-year-old out of Colombia in 2011. He already had a fastball that touched low-90’s and the makings of two good secondary pitches. Mitchell developed slowly in the DSL as one of the younger players his first two seasons, then had a breakout year in 2014. He was the team’s most efficient pitcher, consistently going the maximum five innings, sometimes finishing well below his 75 pitch limit. Mitchell pounded the bottom of the strike zone, working the corners and embraced the Pirates’ method of pitching to contact.
When he came to the GCL this year, they made a late mechanical change, which put him behind at the start of the GCL season and caused some poor results as he got used to the new delivery. By the end of the year, everything clicked, and in his last outing, he struck out a career-high seven batters in just 2.2 innings. Mitchell was not at the Fall Instructional League, but he still has upside as a pitcher who knows how to get the most out of his stuff. He still hits low 90’s, working in the 89-91 range most of the time. He has a solid curve and a changeup he uses as an out pitch.
The value here seems to be good for the Pirates. It’s possible that everything finally clicked for Mitchell, who got some great reviews from Latin American scouts after he signed. But if it did, there’s still a long road for him to get to the majors. Williams seems like a safer bet to get there, and considering he was one of the top prospects in Miami’s system, and a second round pick just two years ago, it seems like a small price to pay to get him in the system.
John Dreker contributed to this report.
UPDATE 12:36 PM: I reached out to Neal Huntington, who had the following to say about Williams.
“We see Williams as a starting pitching prospect that with continued development will help our major league club – potentially as a starting pitcher. We plan to have him be a starting pitcher in our system next year. We liked him in the 2013 draft but the Marlins selected him with the 44th overall pick so we did not have a realistic shot at him.”
As to whether this was related to Benedict, he said that the conversations were on parallel paths, and completed in similar time frames, but didn’t say whether the moves were directly related.