With exciting young arm, Devin Williams, now in the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen, could he be an immediate impact reliever for the team?
Are the Milwaukee Brewers starting to build some momentum?
After going 1-5 last week, including a deflating sweep at the hands of the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, the Brewers enter play on Sunday having won all five of their games so far this week.
The Brewers recent run has moved them from being just outside the playoffs, to being one of the two wild card teams entering play on Sunday (tied with the Washington Nationals for the first wild card spot). They’ve also moved back to within a 1 1/2 games of Chicago in the NL Central.
One thing that went a bit under the radar this week was a debut by one of the Milwaukee Brewers more exciting young arms: Right-handed relief pitcher Devin Williams.
Williams pitched 1 2/3 innings in his Major League debut on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, giving up an unearned run while striking out three and walking just one batter.
Wednesday night, however, may be just the start of what’s to come from Williams. He could be just what the Brewers pen needs to make a run to the post-season this year and beyond.
Why Devin Williams Can Be An Impact Reliever Now
Williams possesses the tools to become an impact multi-inning reliever for the Milwaukee Brewers right now. Let’s take a look at his profile…
Williams strongest pitch is his fastball, which grades out as a well-above average pitch (65 on a 20-80 scale). Since moving to the pen after having durability issues earlier in his career, Williams has seen his fastball velocity increase from the low 90’s to consistently sitting between 95-98 MPH this season.
Not only can he “at times” touch “100 MPH” with that pitch, he’s able to generate late movement with it too, making it an extremely hard pitch for hitters to square up. That pitch has helped him generate ground balls at a 46.3% rate in Double A this season. That’s the best rate he’s done that at since he pitched in rookie ball back in 2014, and is something that should help him the avoid home run issues that have plagued several others this season.
Wipe-out Change-up and Slider
Williams also possesses two other above-average pitches: a change-up and a slider.
Since moving to the pen, Williams has used a change-up much more frequently and it’s become, arguably, his second best pitch. His change sits “12-13 MPH” off his average fastball velocity, and has wicked late movement. He used that pitch to great effect in his debut against Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, hitting the corners and drawing more than a few bad swings on it.
His slider is also a solid pitch, sitting in the upper 80’s on the gun with good, late movement. It’s a pitch that was among his best offerings, even before his injuries. It’s something he can use to get right-handed batters out on a consistent basis.
All three pitches he uses are already above-average. He’s capable of getting a ton of strikeouts with any of them, as evidenced by his 12.83 K/9 rate in Double A this season.
He’s also made considerable improvement with his command over the season, reducing his BB/9 rate over every month since the season began.
Having three go-to pitches gives him a distinct advantage over many relievers since they’re usually dependent on 1-2 good-to-great pitches. This gives him a very high ceiling since he has different offerings he can go to on any given night.
What makes Williams valuable to the Milwaukee Brewers right now, though, isn’t just the elite stuff he possesses. He’s also capable of carrying that plus stuff across more than an inning.
Williams averaged over 1 2/3 innings per outing in Double A this season, pitching 53 1/3 innings across 31 appearances. His ability to give multiple innings of great work means he could be used to bridge the gap between the starters and the late innings guys, or be used as the multi-inning set-up guy to closer Josh Hader.
The Milwaukee Brewers have lacked a second arm who could consistently provide multiple good innings out of the pen so far this season.
Adrian Houser, who was good at doing this earlier in the year, has moved into the rotation due to injuries to others. He may be starting to find his footing in his second chance in the rotation over the past two weeks too, making him more valuable in at least the short-term as a starter than as a reliever.
Freddy Peralta, who was on a good run after getting to moved to the pen earlier this year, has hit a rough patch over the past two weeks himself. That’s made it difficult for Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell to trust him in high-leverage situations.
Two others who could have filled this role, Corbin Burnes and Junior Guerra, have also been extremely volatile when used. The former is not even on the Major League roster anymore. That’s left Counsell with virtually no one he can rely on to fill this gap.
Williams has the stamina and the stuff to be that guy for the team. He could be the one who’s used to help put out any fires the team encounters during a game, giving Counsell someone who could be used in a similar manner to how Hader was used in 2017-18.
If the Milwaukee Brewers are going to make the playoffs, they’ll need someone like Williams to fill this role and excel.
Beyond this year, Williams should figure to be a key piece of the pen too. With three plus offerings, and the ability to pitch multiple innings, Williams is exactly the kind new-age arm that could excel at the Major League level out of the pen.
So long as he continues to refine his command, and can prove that his injury issues are behind him, Williams has the stuff to be a star reliever in this league.
We’ll see if he can realize his potential in the weeks and years to come!