Last winter we asked you to rank the top 20 prospects in the Brewers system. We started our series of reviewing the 2015 seasons of your choices with #10 Taylor Jungmann last week. Today we continue with your #9 prospect: Taylor Williams.
There isn't much to say about Williams in 2015. After turning some heads early in spring training, Williams was shut down with elbow pain. After undergoing injections to try to avoid surgery, his season ended when he underwent Tommy John surgery in early August. Williams entered the season as the Brewers' #9 prospect on MLB.com (very creative, guys), and he now ranks #16 after a lost season and an influx of talent from the 2015 draft and a flurry of mid-season trades.
Williams split time between Low-A Wisconsin and High-A Brevard County in his last full season in 2014. The 2013 fourth-round draft pick out of Kent State dominated for the Timber Rattlers; he appeared in 22 games, starting 12, and recorded a 2.36 ERA. His numbers fell somewhat after his promotion to Brevard County, though a small sample size (25.1 innings) and a high BABIP (.343) account for some of his struggles. His peripheral numbers remained consistent, and he finished 2014 with a strong 9.3 K/9 and and a 4.89 K:BB ratio.
Due to a small stature (5'11", 195 lbs.) and his two-pitch repertoire (he has a strong fastball-slider combo with a developing change-up), Williams' ultimate role in the major leagues is as a reliever. But he'll likely continue to get starts when he returns because Milwaukee prefers to bring their prospects up as starters to help them develop. Williams typically sits in the low-to-mid 90s, though he can reach back for more if he needs to and ran it up to 99 on the radar gun during shorter outings in instructs last year. It remains to be seen if he'll maintain the same type of velocity after his surgery, though the risks associated with Tommy John surgery aren't what they once were.
Williams will fall in the prospects rankings this season, which is more a function of improvement in the system than through any fault of his own. Working back from an injury that robbed him of his third professional season, it's hard to say where Williams will begin the year next season. But it's not hard to imagine a scenario where he pitches well at Double-A Biloxi and earns himself a September call-up that year. More than likely he's at least a year away from contributing in any significant way to the major league club, and with the team in rebuilding mode there's absolutely no reason to rush him as he returns from major surgery.