Garrett Williams Still Searching For His Control
RICHMOND—Even after striking out nine hitters for just the third time in his career, Giants lefthanded-pitching prospect Garrett Williams is still a bit flustered by how elusive the strike zone has become in his second full season as a pro.
“I was definitely searching for fastball command,” Williams said after pitching Saturday in the second game of Richmond’s doubleheader against Harrisburg. “Breaking ball was there and I utilized that throughout the game. I made some pitches when I needed to, but I obviously had the two guys down two strikes in the inning and wasn’t able to put them away.”
Those mistakes led to the eventual winning run and compounded Williams’ frustration with his results so far this season. He’s whiffed 31 in 31.1 innings, but he’s walked 26 as well, which comes back to his search for command of his fastball.
The pitch itself is impressive, a low-90s version thrown from a low, three-quarters slot that oftentimes features natural tail away from righthanded hitters. Unsurprisingly, that pitch helped Williams generate plenty of grounders. He sports a 2.65 groundout-to-airout ratio, a figure that would place him sixth in the minor leagues if he had enough innings to qualify.
He couples the fastball with a curveball—which Baseball America ranked as the best in the Giants’ system—in the low-80s that he showed on Saturday he could drop in for strikes or bury for swings and misses. Williams also has a high-80s changeup that he uses sparingly.
But because he can’t always control how much his fastball bites, he walks hitters, raises his pitch count and leaves starts early. He’s lasted longer than five innings in just three of his eight starts this year.
“It’s in and out,” Williams said. “It’s gloveside and armside right now. I’ll be in the zone and then out of the zone, in the zone and then out of the zone. It’s really just the consistency of it, finding that release point and making adjustments during the game.”
Williams, who ranked as the Giants’ No. 7 prospect entering the season, said he has lowered his arm slot from his college days at Oklahoma State. The change has helped him feel more natural on the mound, and now it’s a matter of being aggressive and letting his ability do the rest.
“Sometimes I get a little tentative and then try to aim it or push it through the zone instead of just trusting my stuff and trusting the movement and keeping my arm speed instead of trying to aim it,” he said. “That’s when I start getting into a trouble.”
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The command and control issues aren’t unique to pro ball. In 72 innings at Oklahoma State, Williams issued 61 walks. He was much sharper against A-ball hitters in 2017, when he walked 3.2 hitters per nine innings. That figure has more than doubled to 7.5 in the early going this year.
In college, Williams pitched 50 times over three years and made 10 starts. As a pro, he’s been used almost exclusively as a starter. He’d like to keep it that way.
“Last year I felt good as a starter and I was able to build confidence off of that and go deeper into games,” he said. “My arm’s definitely in shape for (a starting role), but I get myself into trouble early in games with long at-bats and walks and not being able to get through the middle of the game.”
It’s clear that Williams has the stuff to make an impact in the big leagues someday. Now he just has to control it.