The Milwaukee Brewers have turned over a significant portion of their 40-man roster this offseason, with the stated goal of increasing their flexibility — especially financially. But the club might not actually have a ton of workability with their pitching staff; as currently constructed, seven hurlers under team control are out of minor league options and cannot be sent down without first passing through outright waivers. But that is actually one less pitcher than originally thought, as according to Adam McCalvy, Taylor Williams has been granted a fourth minor league option.
Williams, 28, was a fourth-round pick by the Brewers back in 2013 and first began to turn heads in 2014 with the Timber Rattlers, posting a 2.36 ERA and 112:23 K/BB ratio in 107.0 innings before getting bumped up to Class A-Advanced to finish out the year. That earned him some time in Major League camp the following spring, where players like Ryan Braun sung his praises regarding how the ball exploded out of his hand. But Williams wound up blowing out his elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery, which kept him out all of the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
The Brewers were forced to make a decision on Williams’ future after conclusion of the 2016 campaign as he was Rule 5 eligible, and after showing well during fall instructional league, he was added to the 40-man roster. He spent the majority of the 2017 season building his innings count back up in Double-A, then debuted with the big league club that September. Williams spent most of 2018 in the Brewers bullpen then served as a shuttle arm in 2019, but he has yet to truly find his footing in the majors.
There is no doubting that Williams possesses high-octane stuff, including a fastball that has averaged 96.0 MPH during his 72.1 MLB innings as well as a sharp, upper-80s slider. He has gotten plenty of whiffs, generating a 12.8% whiff rate and 9.46 K/9. But Williams’ control since returning from his surgery hasn’t been as consistent as it was before going under the knife; he has issued 4.23 BB/9 and opposing batters have tagged him for a 30.1% line drive rate. All together, he owns an ugly 5.23 ERA, but much more compelling marks of 92 FIP- and 97 DRA-. He was dominant in Triple-A last season, posting a 2.83 ERA and 1.130 WHIP in the harsh environs of the juiced-ball Pacific Coast League.
A fourth minor league option will allow the Brewers one more opportunity help Williams find the consistency that he needs in order to tap into his tantalizing upside at the MLB level. It will also give Craig Counsell and David Stearns the ability to shuttle him back and forth as fresh arms are needed throughout the season, that is if he is unable to immediately gain traction in the ‘pen. This news leaves Ray Black, Jake Faria, Deolis Guerra, and Corey Knebel as relief candidates without minor league options (along with Brett Anderson, Adrian Houser, and Josh Lindblom in the rotation).
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference