The Cincinnati Reds are taking advantage of some of their minor league pitching depth today as they have traded Noah Davis and Case Williams to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for reliever Mychal Givens.
The trend line for Noah Davis and Case Williams seemed to be going a bit in opposite directions this season. Davis has put together a good season with the High-A Dayton Dragons this year, while Williams has had plenty of struggles in Low-A Daytona with the Tortugas.
Let’s start with Noah Davis, who was rated as the 16th best prospect in the organization on Monday. He missed his draft season recovering from Tommy John surgery before returning in 2019 and pitching with the Billings Mustangs. He, like everyone, then missed out on the 2020 season. This year he’s been in Dayton where he’s posted a 3.60 ERA in 65.0 innings, struck out 77 batters, and he’s allowed just 44 hits. Those are the good numbers. But there are two numbers that aren’t so good: He’s walked 35 batters and he’s hit 12 more. That’s 47 free trips to first base in 65.0 innings this season. The control hasn’t been good.
That said, there’s plenty to like with Davis. When he’s been in the zone he’s had plenty of success. Hitters managed a .193 average and a .276 slugging percentage against him this season while in High-A. He’s got two above-average offerings with his fastball and his slider, and he’s also got a change up and a curveball to give hitters multiple other looks. The control will need to improve if he’s going to be a starter at the big league level, and one of his other pitches will probably need to make an improvement – but it’s all there for him to be a future starting pitcher with some small improvements. If not, the bullpen could be a place where he could find success by shortening his arsenal.
Case Williams was not rated in the top 25 prospects list within the organization and has had his struggles this year. Drafted in the 4th round last summer by the Rockies, Williams didn’t get to pitch due to the season being cancelled. In the offseason he came over in a trade and when the season began he joined the Daytona Tortugas. The youngest pitcher on the roster, he struggled to find consistency. In his 47.0 innings he posted a 5.55 ERA while allowing 45 hits, walking 33, hitting six batters, and striking out 34.
Control was one of the biggest problems he had. In his 12 outings he only walked less than two batters one time. That came earlier this month on July 17th when he fired out 5.0 shutout innings with a walk and five strikeouts against Bradenton. The control had improved as the season went along, though. Over the last month he had walked nine batters in 22.2 innings. While we only have the road Hawkeye data for Williams, he was averaging just 89.7 MPH with his fastball in those six games. The system had him topping out at 93.6 MPH. That’s a drop in velocity from where he reportedly was coming out of the draft when he was sitting 89-93 (rather than averaging, roughly, 90 MPH).
It is worth noting that the walk rate on the whole for the Low-A Southeast where Williams was pitching has a very high walk rate. All of the ballparks except in Daytona are using the automated strikezone this year. Just last week the zone was adjusted after feedback from the players was analyzed against the data. It’s still a work-in-progress. With that said, Williams walk rate was still significantly higher than the league average, but we should be aware of the league context this year, too because the numbers on the surface may not be quite what they appear to be.
The Reds are currently deep with pitching prospects. Noah Davis is the teams 7th best pitching prospect. Case Williams wasn’t among the top 25 list, so where exactly he falls in the hierarchy of prospects doesn’t matter too much beyond that point. Cincinnati had depth to trade from and they used it today to try and improve their bullpen that has been an unmitigated disaster for most of the season. It will probably take some time to sort out just how this deal plays out. The first thing that matters is how Givens and the Reds perform the rest of the year. Making the playoffs because of a strong run with the help of Givens and the bullpen would go a long way to making whatever happens down the road of little consequence.
It’s always possible that prospects turn into something unforeseen. Jacob deGrom was never rated higher than the #10 prospect in the Mets organization and he’s been arguably the best pitcher alive for four years now. Weird things like that do happen. But the two guys moved in the deal for the Reds are currently viewed a bit down the depth chart among the pitchers in the organization. There’s potential with both, but that’s where the depth comes into play – Cincinnati probably isn’t counting on them to play a big role in the future and thus they were more willing to move them for a shorter term goal.