Recently released by the Pirates, the Padres should consider pitcher Trevor Williams for the rotation.
Drafted in the second round of the 2013 MLB Draft, San Diego native Trevor Williams has had an unfortunate start to his career. The 28-year-old came up through the Miami Marlins organization before being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates after the 2015 season. The Padres need another arm for the starting rotation, and a homecoming might make some sense.
Williams was a surprising DFA candidate for Pittsburgh, and he ultimately chose free agency after clearing waivers. He posted a 6.18 ERA in 11 starts for the Pirates last season while allowing a league-leading 15 home runs. The Pirates rotation, as a group, was not great in 2020, finishing with a seventh-worst 4.74 ERA.
Of course, Williams was part of that group, but he’s also two years removed from posting a 3.11 ERA in 31 starts during the 2018 season. Williams would give the Padres another righty in the rotation-one that features five pitches in his arsenal. He relies on his four-seam fastball and complements it with a slider and changeup. As noted, Williams also features a sinker fastball and curveball.
Since 2018, Williams’ pitch usage has changed quite a bit. He still relies on his primary pitch, but two years ago, he had a nearly equal balance among his sinker, changeup, and slider at 18.0, 15.3, and 15.0 percent, respectively. That mix worked well for him as opponents could only hit .213 and .218 off his fastball and slider.
Williams is not a power pitcher. His fastball tops out at approximately 92 MPH, but his secondary pitches yielded good swing-and-miss rates, especially his slider. This likely led to new Pirates’ pitching coach Oscar Marin increasing Williams’s usage in 2020. The results backfired, and the big righty had a down season.
In 2020, Williams’ slider yielded a .348 batting average, despite producing nearly a 40 percent swing-and-miss rate. 11 of the 15 home runs allowed came off his four-seam fastball. He had a difficult time against right-handed batters, allowing a 1.114 OPS on reverse splits. For reference, Williams allowed a .681 OPS two seasons ago.
Could it be an anomaly, or is this who Trevor Williams really is?
Given COVID-19’s impact on the delayed start to the 2020 season, there were several cases across the league of established players having down years. Williams would likely be an inexpensive signing, and a one-year deal with a club option for 2022 makes sense. If Williams returns to 2018 form, the Padres would obviously retain him for another season, potentially setting Williams up for a sizeable contract beyond that.
And if it doesn’t work out, there’s not a huge investment sunk into him.