When the Cincinnati Reds acquired Brandon Williamson in March of 2022 he was coming off of a strong season in the Seattle Mariners organization. In 2021 he had posted a 3.39 ERA in 19 starts between High-A Everett and Double-A Arkansas where he had 33 walks and 153 strikeouts in 98.1 innings pitched. Baseball America had rated him as the #83 prospect in baseball entering the 2022 season. But once 2022 began, things started to go south for the left-handed pitcher. He battled consistency with both his control and with his stuff. After 27 starts between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville he posted a 4.11 ERA and had 77 walks with 123 strikeouts in 122.2 innings.
The slide backwards has continued this season in Triple-A. The now 25-year-old has made eight starts for the Bats and his ERA sits at 6.62 thanks to 44 hits and 20 walks to go with just 27 strikeouts in 34.0 innings. In 2022 the lefty allowed just nine homers in 122.2 innings, but this season he’s already given up seven of them. Keeping the ball in the park last season helped mitigate many of his other struggles, but that hasn’t been happening this season and it’s led to a lot of runs against him.
Despite the struggles, injuries at the big league level had led to Williamson getting called up to the big leagues and he’s going to make his big league debut tonight in Colorado. The big question is – what can you expect to see from him?
It’s a loaded question because he’s been rather inconsistent since joining the Reds organization, but if we’re going to focus on just this year…. well, you’re still not sure. Here’s what his eight starts look like this season:
His last two starts have been fine. The two before that were atrocious. The one before that was solid as he walked a fine line in 6.0 shutout innings. And the three starts to begin the season were not good. You simply don’t know what you’re going to get based on any sort of recent history with Williamson. Will he throw strikes or won’t he? Will he give up a bunch of homers or won’t he?
He’s pitched better against lefties this season than righties. As a left-handed pitcher that’s not surprising. Lefties have hit .286/.333/.381 against him, but he’s had just six strikeouts in 45 match ups this year (but also just three walks). Right-hadnded hitters have hit .320/.425/.600 against him with 17 walks and 21 strikeouts in 120 trips to the plate against him this year. They aren’t missing and they are doing plenty of damage.
When it comes to his stuff, he’s throwing five pitches this season. Here’s what the breakdown looks like:
For the most part, this is all small sample size stuff. Guys are slugging 2.000 off of the cutter, but that’s literally just 1-for-2, with the one being a home run. That’s not really useful data because he throws the pitch so infrequently. He does throw enough of the other pitches to where the data is at least somewhat useful, though. The breaking balls seem to be hits often enough, but guys haven’t done much damage with them. The fastball and change up, though, that’s where hitters have seemingly found the ability to hit for power.
No pitcher likes pitching in Coors Field. Breaking balls don’t break like they do just about everywhere else. The ball absolutely flies. And with a huge outfield to try and make up for the fact that the ball absolutely flies, weak contact can often drop in for hits. For Williamson to have success he’s going to need to be on top of his game. Throwing strikes will be a must because walking guys will lead to troubles more in Colorado than just about anywhere else. Keeping the ball in the park would also go a long ways, but that’s always a lot easier said than done in Coors Field.
Who knows what will happen on Tuesday night. Great pitchers will have a clunker every so often. And bad pitchers will throw a perfect game every few decades. You never know what you’re going to see. But a low-strikeout, high-walk, high-home run pitcher in Coors Field isn’t usually a good recipe. Which Brandon Williamson shows up? The sort of consistent guy that last two times he’s taken the mound, or the inconsistent version who has struggled much of the last two seasons?