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MLB Draft 2021: Cleveland selects RHP Gavin Williams with No. 23 pick

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Another electric arm is heading to Cleveland

Cleveland has selected right-handed pitcher Gavin Williams out of East Carolina. Standing 6-foot-6 as a college senior, Williams has one of the biggest power arms of the 2021 draft.

Here’s what MLB Pipeline had to say about him:

Williams had one of the most projectable fastballs in the 2017 high school class, reaching 95 mph as a lanky 6-foot-6 North Carolinian, and he hit 100 mph as an East Carolina freshman after turning down the Rays as a 30th-rounder. But he never could claim a regular rotation spot in his first three years with the Pirates and pitched just three innings while dealing with a finger injury during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, after which he declined some Draft overtures. Just when he was getting pegged as a hard-throwing reliever who lacked feel for spin, he broke out this spring, earning American Athletic Conference pitcher of the year honors, ranking fifth in NCAA Division I in strikeout rate (14.4 per nine innings) and holding his own in a super-regional duel with Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker.

A potential first-round pick, Williams still offers plenty of fastball velocity and can approach triple digits while holding 94-97 mph for several innings as a starter. His upper-70s curveball suddenly has more power and more consistent shape with some eye-popping metrics, and his previously lackluster slider is now an average mid-80s offering that shows flashes of becoming solid. He has continued to display aptitude for a mid-80s changeup, giving him a deep mix of pitches.

Strong and athletic, Williams has cleaned up his delivery during his time in college but didn’t provide consistent strikes until this year. He looked good in the fall of 2019 and scouts thought he was trending upward before he broke the ring finger on his pitching hand during a rundown drill. His breakthrough has come a year later and he’s making a convincing argument that he could be a mid-rotation starter.

MLB Pipeline had Williams listed as the No. 31 prospect in the 2021 MLB Draft, so he’s not too far off projections, and his power arm could be one of the most electric in Cleveland’s system almost immediately.