Cubs pitching prospect Ryan Williams was one of the best stories in the organization last year, having come from being a senior closer at ECU who signed for $1,000 after being drafted in the 10th round in 2014, to being a starting pitcher who was so dominating in Low-A that he skipped High-A entirely and finished the season at AA (where he was nearly as dominating).
He won pitcher of the year honors from there, and was recently invited to Major League Spring Training. It would have been an impressive, tantalizing, and meteoric ascension for any pitching prospect, even a first round draft pick, but for Williams, it’s a credit to his work and ability – and a credit to the Cubs’ scouting and player development staff.
There, Williams writes about getting to know his new teammates and working on his mechanics with Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio, and you immediately see why it’s important for guys like Williams – players with a legitimate shot of contributing to the big league club in the near future – to get some time in big league camp.
And Williams, 24, really does have that shot. Although he’s not on the 40-man roster, and is just a year and a half out of the draft, his polished, economical, command-based, sinker style makes him readier to fill in at the big league level earlier than most, and he’s already going to be at AA/AAA anyway. The Cubs have a boatload of 6th starting pitcher at the big league level already in the bullpen, but it’s still conceivable that Williams could get a fill-in start or two at the big league level as soon as this season if the need arises.
I hope for the Cubs that the need doesn’t arise, but I sure wouldn’t mind seeing how his game plays in the bigs in advance of the 2017/18 seasons when the Cubs will need more starting pitching and may not be able to spend big money on it because of burgeoning other contracts.
In the meantime, it’ll be fun to see him work with the big league team in Spring Training, and soak up as much as he can. Hopefully we hear from from him in his diary at ESPN.