East Carolina University’s Gavin Williams could be the first American Athletic Conference player drafted this year. The school has produced several big leaguers in its history with the most recent being, Jeff Hoffman. Hoffman was drafted in the first round of the 2014 Draft. Williams won’t go that high but he is a good bet to go in this year’s compressed draft.
Gavin Williams 2020 MLB Draft Profile
Williams is ranked 91st on MLB.com’s big board. He is a mammoth 6’6″, 240-pound right-handed pitcher originally Fayetteville, North Carolina. The Tampa Bay Rays selected Williams in the 30th round of the 2017 Draft but he chose to attend college instead. He has been a reliable bullpen arm for the Pirates despite battling a finger injury to start the 2020 season.
Williams has a three-pitch repertoire featuring a fastball, curveball, and changeup. The fastball is easily his best pitch. It is graded as a 70/80 and sits between 94-99 while occasionally touching 100. The curve comes at batters in the mid-70s and is a nice breaking pitch with room to improve. The changeup is slightly better, however, as a 55-grade pitch that plays off the fastball effectively.
Williams’ height is his best asset when throwing the heater. It gives him tremendous leverage and an ability to throw downhill. He only struck out 9.3 batters per nine innings in college but that improved each year from 5.2 as a freshman to 15.0 in his brief junior year. He only threw three innings in 2020 but the pandemic cut short what could have been a very good season.
Williams never found a consistent spot in East Carolina’s rotation in his two-plus seasons. He only started five times for the Pirates. However, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t effective. Williams still threw 71 innings in his collegiate career with a respectable 3.93 ERA and 73 strikeouts compared to 38 walks.
A lack of starting experience is a big negative for Williams. A team might try him as a starter but he could end up as a reliever anyway with a strong fastball/changeup combination. It would certainly be what he’s used to basing on his respectable college production.
However, there are concerns even if Williams does remain a reliever. His career walk rate of 4.8 batters per nine innings probably isn’t good enough to make a major league roster unless he can demonstrate a consistent ability to strike batters out. Williams has the frame and pure stuff to be a strong bullpen arm but his mechanics need refinement.
Very few pitchers close to Williams’ height throw his exact mix of pitches. Lucas Giolito would be outstanding potential comp if Williams ever adds a slider to his repertoire. Giolito took a major step forward for the Chicago White Sox in 2019. He threw 176 2/3 innings with a 3.41 ERA and 228 strikeouts compared to only 57 walks. The former first-round pick made his first all-star game and finished sixth in AL Cy Young voting. Williams has a long way to go reach Giolito’s level but that could be the best-case scenario for the East Carolina product.
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