With multiple roles to fill in the rotation, the Cincinnati Reds will reportedly call upon a highly-touted right-hander in Brandon Williamson to make his Major League debut this week against the Rockies. So, what can Reds fans expect from the 25-year-old righty who was acquired in the Jesse Winker/Eugenio Suarez trade from March 2022? Let’s take a closer look at Williamson.
A Look at Williamson
When the Reds dealt Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker to the Mariners, one of the pieces that went to Cincinnati was LHP Brandon Williamson. A second-round pick by the M’s in 2019, Williamson was a college teammate of now-Reds SP Nick Lodolo at TCU. In his junior season with the Horned Frogs, Williamson showed flashes of brilliance when he struck out 89 batters over 77.1 IP. However, command was a problem for the 25-year-old in college — and that hasn’t changed since Williamson went pro.
The former TCU star looked dominant in the Minors during 2019 & 2021 seasons. With Everett (A+) in 2021, Williamson struck out 59 over 31 innings before a promotion to Arkansas (AA). His BB% rate went up slightly when he moved up to AA, but he still showcased impressed stuff and missed a ton of bats with the Travelers.
Since then, Williamson’s command problems came back to the forefront. The 25-year-old walked 77 batters over 122.2 IP in 2022, and he put another 20 on the base paths via the walk through 34 innings. Williamson’s 2023 has been particularly ugly, as he owns a 7.68 ERA and has yielded 44 hits across eight games.
When clicking, Williamson boasts a low-to-mid 90s heater along with a slider that poses as his primary out pitch. The lefty also has a curveball and changeup in his arsenal, the latter of which can be an effective against lefties. Williamson’s changeup, per Baseball Savant, ranged around 6-8 MPH less in velocity than his fastball in AAA.
Williamson won’t be the only Red to make his MLB debut this week when he starts for Cincinnati on May 16. 2B/SS Matt McLain was called up one day earlier and made his debut on May 15 for the Reds. In that game, he notched his first hit and run scored as a Major Leaguer.
A Look at the Reds Rotation and Fantasy Outlook
The Reds have received strong results from young starters Hunter Greene and Graham Ashcraft, as well as a ton of whiffs from left-hander Nick Lodolo. But with Lodolo on the IL and Luis Cessa no longer on the Reds roster, Williamson will get a crack at holding down a spot in the rotation for the time being.
It’s understandable as to why the Reds would give Williamson a look, given his ability to generate whiffs and potential. This can also prove to be a test to see whether Williamson can be relied upon as a starter long-term, or whether to shift the lefty to a relief role. Given his command, his future may not be as a high-leverage guy, but one that could a versatile arm that can eat multiple innings and be effective with at least two above-average pitches in his fastball and slider.
Now as far as our fantasy outlook for Williamson is concerned, it’s best to wait and see how Williamson does before making a clear decision. His command is a red flag, giving us serious concern for his ability to be effective right from the start.