The Guardians are adding Gavin Williams as their third rookie pitcher in the 2023 starting rotation.
Gavin Williams will start for the Guardians tomorrow, the third Top 100 pitching prospect to debut for them this season.— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) June 20, 2023
Selected 23rd overall in the 2021 MLB draft by the Guardians, MLB Pipeline ranked Williams as the third-best Guardians’ prospect entering the season (he is now ranked as their best prospect) and the 53rd best in baseball, FanGraphs ranked him as the Guardians’ sixth-best prospect and 81st on their top 100, ESPN ranked Williams as second best in Cleveland’s system and 33rd in baseball, the Athletic’s Keith Law had him as the fifth-best Guardians minor-leaguer and 53rd overall.
Again and again, the prospect gurus mention concerns with injuries (particularly his back) that Williams had in college. If healthy, the consense seems to be that his fastball and slider are his bread and butter, but a changeup he used sparingly and a pretty curveball give him the number of reliable offerings needed to be an effective starter. Williams has been sitting in the mid to upper 90s with his fastball and has hit 100 mph in Columbus, so Cleveland has to be feeling good about what they’ve seen so far from their first-rounder.
Williams had a breakout campaign in 2022 with a 1.96 ERA, 3.09 FIP, and 11.66/3.13 K/BB/9. In Akron this season, Williams had an ERA of 0.63, a FIP of 1.15, and a K/BB/9 of 12.56/1,88, Seeing that Double-A wasn’t a challenge for him, the Guardians sensibly called him up to Columbus where he put up a 2.93 ERA, 4.11 FIP and a 11.93/4.11 K/BB/9. Among pitchers with 40 or more innings at Triple-A this season, Williams leads all Triple-A pitchers with a 15.4 swinging strike rate, an indicator of the quality of his stuff. I also calculated the induced vertical break on Williams’ fastball, which tells you about how well a pitch breaks in relation to a ball that would travel straight over the plate. Williams’ fastballs are regularly measuring around 17 in IVB and touching 18 which is elite and makes his four-seamer particularly heavy and difficult for hitters to square up.
A full scouting report on Williams, up to the moment, was offered by Lance Brozdowski on Twitter below. It offers a lot of great info on how he uses his fastball, slider, curve, and change and where each offering appears to be measuring up in relation to other major league pitchers:
My thoughts on Gavin Williams ahead of tomorrow's debut.— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBroz) June 20, 2023
Big fan of him. Huge extension, big fastball, barrel-avoiding gyro slider. #Guardians pitching development remains elite. pic.twitter.com/M7fz94HJnh
You can get a special preview of that fastball in this clip displaying the fastest pitch thrown in the International League so far this season:
No. 2 #Guardians prospect Gavin Williams has five strikeouts and nine whiffs over 35 pitches through two innings today for Triple-A Columbus.— Sam Dykstra (@SamDykstraMiLB) May 10, 2023
This 101.1 mph fastball against Christian Encarnacion-Strand is the fastest pitch thrown by an International League starter this season. pic.twitter.com/OS8N8yIzeN
You may not have believed me when I said Williams’ curveball is pretty. Well, now you will:
Gavin Williams, Beautiful Curveball. pic.twitter.com/gQGLZSkvXU— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 11, 2021
And don’t forget his trusty friend the spinning slider, always reliable for a hitter looking to fish:
While 2023 has been a somewhat disappointing season for the Guardians record-wise, so far, Williams’ arrival is a reminder that these are exciting times for Cleveland baseball fans. We get to watch Logan Allen, Tanner Bibee, and Gavin Williams experience the ups and downs of facing major league hitters and, hopefully, get stretched out for full-season runs as anchors of a starting rotation in 2024 and beyond. Each player is talented enough to help in a playoff push this season, and with the Guardians only one game back in the lackluster AL Central, it’s great to see Williams — the pitcher with possibly the best stuff in Cleveland’s system — get his chance to shine starting today.
While you wait for tonight’s 7:10 p.m. ET first pitch, enjoy this amazing hype video for Williams put together by the great Guardians Twitter account @mlbfeeelit: