TCN 2015 Cards Prospect #31: Ronnie Williams

Taken 68th overall in the 2014 draft, the Florida high schooler debuted in the Gulf Coast League.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile

School: American Senior High School, Hialeah, Florida

2014 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NA RHS 01,06,96 6-1 180 R R 2014 2nd

Selected 2014 stats

GCL 0 5 4.71 3.29 10 8 1 36.1 39 19 1 9 30 0.279 1.11 0.333

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (33): Ronnie Williams was one of the more intriguing players to rack up votes during the community discussion, garnering attention as early as #24. Mudville, for instance, likes Williams’ high ceiling. Freshjmm is really impressed his arm, noting Williams’ impressive fastball velocity of 97 mph with movement.

CariocaCardinal believes a case can be made for Williams based on draft position (second round) and signing bonus ($834,000). UncleDenny disagrees with that logic, believing there are many hard throwers who project at least as high, if not higher, than Williams and have some track record at a similar age. - Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore: The Cardinals’ second round draft pick was a bit of a surprise to many because the high school arm was so vastly underrated. Williams really came on late, throwing 98 mph fastballs and luckily the Cardinals grabbed him before another team swept him up.

The right-hander signed immediately, reported to Jupiter to start his professional career, and began to pitch in game action less than a month after the draft. He acquitted himself pretty well right out of high school, struggling at first with a 7.53 ERA in his first five appearances, but improving significantly with a 2.37 ERA in four starts in August while getting more acclimated to the professional game.

The smallish righty throws a fastball that registers in the mid-90s range. The pitch has yet to show consistent velocity, but that should come due to his elite athleticism that allows him to repeat a clean delivery. Williams also sports a good breaking pitch with plenty of depth and feel for a change-up.

Williams’ command for a high school pitcher is advanced and he offers another power arm to add to the stable. I’d like to see Williams reach the Midwest League before 2015 comes to an end but he will more likely start with short-season State College after opening the season at Extended Spring Training.

Brian Walton (30): Though I had the opportunity to watch Williams throw a bullpen during instructs, the dicey Florida fall weather kept me from seeing him in game action.

Williams did sit down for an interview this fall, which TCN members can listen to in its entirety here.

The graduate of Major League Baseball’s RBI program (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) looked back at his development time there fondly. “RBI gave me motivation to make it because I could see where kids came from and what they had to go through. I want to be role model for people back home and for them to follow me,” Williams said.

Despite being an outfielder in high school on the days he was not pitching, Williams is not looking back at his decision to focus on the mound full-time as a professional. “It was tough for me, but I know that (pitching) was where my bread and butter was, so I put it (the bat) down and concentrated on pitching alone,” he noted.

I had not heard of Williams until relatively late in the spring when our national analyst at the time, Kiley McDaniel, learned of Williams’ bump up in velocity as well as the Cardinals’ interest in him. This was before the hurler fanned 11 in the Florida state title game. Now everyone knew of him.

The club apparently made a decision to strike pre-emptively, announcing Williams’ name at pick number 68 overall in the draft. It was the final selection of the second round. The Cardinals would not have another between number 72 and 103, so the end of the third round may have been too long to wait.

It was actually earlier than Williams had expected.

“I thought I was going to go three or four,” Williams recalled. “When I came off the board in the second, it shocked me. I had no idea, actually.”

As outlined above, his initial professional action was rocky. The Gulf Coast League is a big step for any high school athlete. Note that his FIP was almost 1.5 runs better than his ERA, though.

“At first I was a little nervous,” he admitted. “I wouldn’t say I was aiming, but I was shaky on what pitch to make and what not to do. When I got further into the season, I started to learn the ways of how to pitch and learn the batters and have confidence on the mound.”

The fastball-curve-changeup pitcher stated he threw 93-95 during the high school season but admitted his arm was a bit tired by the time we spoke in early October. It was a longer season than he had ever thrown before.

Though he would rest his arm in the off-season, one of Williams’ goals is to put on 20 pounds of muscle and report to camp with the mindset to make a full-season squad. Though he understands that is very aggressive, it shows a young man ready to take on all comers.

Our 2015 top 40 series continues: To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 40 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of the latter are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

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