Pirates Acquire RHP Trevor Williams From the Marlins

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.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    October 24, 2015 10:34 pm

    Why would the Marlins trade a second round pick from just two years ago for Mitchell, who has some talent, but is hardly a top prospect?

    • Yes I agree. There is more to this deal then just the trade of two prospects. I also think there is more to Benedict leaving.

  • Tim, where do you see Williams on the prospect list? Is he top 20?

  • Sounds like depth move Tim and others have been talking about them doing for a while now. Taillon, Glasnow, Kingham, Cumpton, and Sadler all not going to be options for MLB until June at the earliest if in 2016 at all, although with the missed time for Taillon the last 2 years I would hope they promote him as soon as ready and not use Super 2 date as a consideration, it’s a guy that can be shuttled between Indy and Pittsburgh if they need a spot starter for a start or two.

  • Maybe part of a Benedict to the Marlins deal?

  • My concern is that Benedict probably knows more about Mitchell than anybody.

    • Could Benedict have influenced this trade this quickly? I dunno.

      Hey……..it may end up as win/win for both of us, but I am leaning towards the guy closest to the majors who also finished well. 🙂

    • No worries then, Dan Urbina Sr probably knows him better than Benedict, he was his pitching coach for three years in the DSL

  • Jeffrey Bruner
    October 24, 2015 12:01 pm

    Williams had a really rough start in AA — 1-6 I think — but then went 6-2 before pitching well in a short stint in AAA. I don’t see the downside to the deal. NH got a guy who could be a spot starter next year for a prospect who is still a long way from the bigs.

    • Agreed. They needed a depth arm to make up for guys working their way way back from injury.

  • Tim…loved your Twitter/Benedict comment…:)

  • I am not going to say this is a good move or a bad move, but I will say its a puzzling move. I always question why a trade like this happens when you can’t see a particular benefit from it. For example, the Snider trade last year, you knew Baltimore was trying to upgrade their outfield. In this case, its an “iffy” RHP coming over for arguably our best GCL pitcher. It seems that the Pirates have a lot of Williams soft tossing type pitchers already in the system. A 4.00 ERA in AA isn’t really a strong recommendation either just on the numbers. Granted Mitchell is still in the “iffy” stage, and I could see him being traded for a LHP or position player, so I find this as I said “puzzling”.

    • Mitchell, according to Tim, only sits 89-91, so it was one soft tosser for another?

    • Mitchell had no chance of being in our top 50. He was a project who made an interesting adjustment, but had a long way to go. And I didn’t think he was close to the best GCL pitcher.

      Williams is definitely in the discussion for the top 50, and is a guy who will at least reach the majors, with a chance to start in the majors.

      • Another minor move with upside by NH. Nothing to see here. Move along. And see where Williams winds up.

        Thanks, Tim for the follow up in the comments. This is the good information that makes P2 valuable.
        “Hey! Dis ain’t Pismo Beach! … I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque.”

        • Wabbit…I don’t know what is scarier…you agreeing with me or me agreeing with you.

          We gotta do Altoona again sometime. Been too long.

        • I’ve been to Pismo Beach. Good thing Wabbit didn’t turn left at Albuquerque!

      • Ok, here is where logic escapes me. Why would Miami trade a “Top 50” prospect (already having a farm system that is ranked “weak”) for a “non Top 50” pitcher? How is a pitcher with combined results of a 3.85 ERA and a 1.405 WHIP in 2015 suddenly a Top 50 player? Is it because he was a second round draft choice? Is it that Miami has their heads up their behinds?

        Mitchell was much stronger in the GCL then you are giving him credit for IMO. Seems Mr. Dreker and I had a couple conversations along those lines this past year about the state of our GCL pitchers and Mitchell’s name was brought up as a positive. Batista, Escobar and Mitchell were all at age 19, and Mitchell was right between them in ERA, and they were the 3 best pitchers at their age level. The only other pitchers better then these 3 were Plitt (age 20) and Mota (age 23).

        As I stated, I am not for or against this trade. To me it is a trade that makes no sense at face value.

        • This was the price they paid for being able to talk to and ultimately acquire Benedict. Neal’s refusal to deny that the two moves were related says it all.

        • It could be that given the Marlin’s payroll structure they need guys who have high upside, and would rather have more long odd potential big return arms, I’m not sure this describes Mitchell, than a sinker ball pitcher whose ceiling is a back end starter.

        • Mitchell wasn’t in the top 10 of the GCL rankings. He was the fifth best pitcher at that level in our rankings. There’s nothing special about him right now, but he’s interesting enough that he’s more of a project than a total non-prospect. This is coming from having actually seen him this year, rather than going on ERA and age, which we don’t do in the lower levels.

          You mentioned Escobar. That’s a pitcher who was 19 and got up to 95 MPH on a regular basis. His stuff is way ahead of Mitchell’s stuff. And yet he’s a long shot to make the majors and become an actual prospect. So what does that make Mitchell as a guy with weaker stuff who pitched in a smaller role at the lowest levels (a role usually reserved for organizational filler)?

          You’re saying the trade makes no sense because it appears the Pirates got a great value here, getting an actual prospect for a guy who looks like an organizational player, or a low probability project at best. It does appear that way, and that doesn’t make sense for the Marlins if we assume that this deal had no connection to the Benedict move.

          It seems like you’re going from there and assuming the Pirates either missed something with Mitchell (they didn’t) or they didn’t get a good player in Williams (and every outlet disagrees with that). The facts show that the Pirates got a great trade. It comes across that you’re trying to find a way to explain why this can’t be possible.

  • How does NH continually pull of heists like this?

    • I here ya. Getting a 2nd Round pick they paid $1.2 mil to sign in 2013 and who is now at the AA/AAA level for Richard Mitchell? And, they just signed our guru of pitching who probably knows Mitchell very well? It looks good, but scary at the same time due to the Marlins signing of Benedict.

      • win win for both teams?

        • Time will tell. On the short term it is nice depth in a rotation with a lot of injured guys: Taillon, Kingham, Cumpton, Sadler. Nice insurance move to get a near finished product. Another guy like Sadler or Kuhl it seems. Nothing wrong with that.

    • heist? I think it’s way to early to evaluate

    • You call it a heist. I’m reading that we got a potential back end Cumpton-like starter for 2017 in exchange for giving up on a Benedict project who, in his last start, got 7 of the first 8 guys he faced to strike out. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see the Marlins eventually get the better end of this deal.

      • Who said Mitchell was a Benedict project? He was in the US for one year and pitched as a reliever in the GCL, which isn’t where the organization assigns their actual prospects. I doubt Benedict has even worked with Mitchell.