Sam McWilliams Provides Valuable Depth
Sam McWilliams’ statistics didn’t necessarily suggest he was worthy of a major league contract for 2021, but deeper analysis told another story about the righthander.
Intrigued by McWilliams’ increased velocity at the Rays' alternate training site last summer, the Mets signed the 25-year-old minor league free agent to a major league deal worth $750,000. The Mets were among several teams pursuing McWilliams.
The 6-foot-7 McWilliams spent the bulk of 2019 at Double-A Montgomery and reached Triple-A Durham for 11 appearances, where he went 1-6, 8.18.
“He has changed the way he approaches his game,” Mets big league pitching coach Jeremy Hefner said. “Certainly the results in 2019 weren’t great, but with the changes he made at Tampa Bay's alternate site, we expect his performance to be far better and far more consistent.”
McWilliams began to hit 98 mph regularly at the Rays' alternate site, which paired with his sharp power slider make him a prime candidate for relief innings in 2021.
McWilliams, an eighth-round pick by the Phillies out of high school in Hendersonville, Tenn., in 2014, has bounced between the rotation and bullpen his last two seasons in the minor leagues.
“He likely projects out as a reliever, but he should be able to go multiple innings,” Hefner said.
McWilliams went from the Phillies to the D-backs in a trade for Jeremy Hellickson in 2015. Three years later he landed with the Rays as part of a three-team trade. Left unprotected after the 2018 season, he was selected by the Royals in the Rule 5 draft, but failed to stick with the organization and was returned to the Rays.
Under new team president Sandy Alderson, the Mets have made organizational depth a priority, given the scarcity of options at the Triple-A and Double-A levels. In McWilliams they have insurance.
“His slider has always been good, so not much change there,” Hefner said. “He stopped throwing the two-seamer (fastball) and is only throwing four-seamers. He has much more efficient delivery now—mitigating some risk for injury.”
NEW YORK MINUTES
— The Mets' search for rotation depth led to righthander Jerad Eickhoff’s arrival on a minor league deal and invite to spring training. Eickhoff, 30, last appeared in the major leagues in 2019 when he went 3-4 with a 5.71 ERA in 12 appearances for the Phillies.
— Shortstop Wilfredo Tovar returned to the organization on a minor league contract and invitation to spring training. Tovar, 29, made his major league debut with the Mets in 2013. He had since spent time in the Twins, Cardinals and Angels organizations.