TCN 2016 Cards Prospect #31: Ronnie Williams

The 2014 second-round pitcher had some ups and downs in a learning season in the Appalachian League.

The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Player Profile

School: American Senior High School, Miami, Florida

2015 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
31 RHS 01,06,96 6-1 180 R R 2014 2nd

Selected 2015 stats

Tm W L ERA FIP G GS SV IP H ER HR BB SO AVG G/AO BABIP
JC 3 3 3.70 4.80 12 12 0 56 45 23 5 25 43 0.223 1.29 0.255

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (36): Ronnie Williams wasn’t quite as respected in the community vote as he was by our other voters, as he was voted the group’s #36th best prospect.

Williams began receiving votes in the early 20’s though, as freshjmm believes Williams to be the most overlooked prospect by our board. Desmetlax12, mentioned that Williams and Ryan Helsley had the best seasons among pitchers at rookie level Johnson City, noting that Williams is quite young and has a lot of potential. GM4aday noted that the one thing he did not like seeing was Williams’ K/BB ratio go down from 2014. - Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore (25): The former 2nd round pick was The Cardinal Nation’s Johnson City Starting Pitcher of the Year after a strong first full season in the Cardinals organization.

It was not surprising for a prep pitcher from the draft to have troubles controlling counts. In Williams’ case, his walks per nine innings jumped a full point from the past summer. In the meantime, his ability to pitch deeper into games became notable as the season wore on. It's easy to say, the Cardinals’ right-hander has represented himself quite well so far in professional baseball.

The word connected to Williams by Baseball America’s Hudson Belinsky is 'consistency'. Williams’ fastball can register in the mid-90s range, with it mostly working in the 88-91 band and should remain consistent as he fills out his projectable frame. He will flash two secondary pitches - change-up and curveball - with the former showing bat-missing ability while the latter is said to have the look of an above-average pitch when it has its proper bite.

“He is an athletic pitcher,” said Belinsky, who evaluated Williams this past summer. “A projectable body, a good fastball, curveball, and changeup guy. There’s definitely some things to like about him for sure.”

Williams has a larger room for error than most pitching prospects due to his elite athleticism. Normally, this would help him repeat his delivery, but he is said to have additional length to his arm action that leads to some inconsistency from the repeatability standpoint. Still, his athleticism should allow him to make the necessary adjustments to continue starting as he moves up the Cardinals system.

“He’s definitely got some promising traits,” Belinsky continued. “But the profile is a right-handed pitcher with underwhelming size, some length to the arm action, and not the most consistent plus side. There are issues there, but he has potential - definitely a prospect.

“I think he is a starter. The thing for him is he is going to be 20 years old. We are going to see how his strength comes along as he has the frame to add weight and a loose arm. If this guy ends up pitching well into the mid 90s, then we’re really talking about something. It is just hard to say with a guy that far away because you don’t know how his body will develop.

“He definitely can spin the ball, has a chance to develop a good breaking ball and the changeup is probably his best pitch. When you think about it that way, he has the potential for three or even four weapons when you consider his slider as well. As the fastball comes along then you have a starter kit. If not, then he is kind of looked at the same as a projection guy. If he is going to bullpen, he’s got to get stronger first.”

His placement for 2016 is difficult to predict, but perhaps Williams will show enough to travel north for a full-season assignment with Peoria. If not, he can continue to gain repetitions in extended spring training under watchful eyes every day.

Brian Walton (28): The day after we profiled St. Louis’ second-rounder in 2013, Oscar Mercado, we get the second of the two from the same round from 2014. (TCN top prospect #37 Andrew Morales is the other.)

In a rather odd coincidence, Williams has placed 31st in our top 40 for the second consecutive year. From a system most known for its pitching, he is the eighth mound prospect from our first 10 2016 Cardinals honorees.

In short-season ball, extremes in performance are magnified since the schedules are shorter. Williams had both this last summer in a campaign that was solid overall. Yet there is more than just the numbers to consider. It is easy to forget the players at these levels are still deep in learning mode.

Williams got off to a rough start in the Appalachian League, allowing seven runs in his first nine innings (two starts). He then found his stride, yielding just five runs in total over his next six starts and lowering his season ERA to 2.70. After a couple of three-run outings, Willliams had a 2/3 inning clunker before closing the season strongly with one run allowed on three hits and a walk to go with seven strikeouts over five innings.

During instructional league camp, I asked Williams about his acclimation to a new league.

“I am not going to say I was nervous, but I was learning how to perform at that level,” Williams said. “From the GCL (to the Appalachian League), the hitters are a lot more aggressive. So I learned how to pitch, to mix it up and keep that balance instead of just throwing the ball in there.

“As the season went on, I would talk to my pitching coach (Paul Davis) about quality strikes and making quality pitches. I just focused on the lower part of the zone and once I started hitting the low part of the zone, I did well,” he said.

Looking ahead, I am less excited about Williams physically and his “projectable frame.” In person, he looks smallish to me. At a listed 6-feet, 170 pounds, Williams is the same height as Carlos Martinez, but is 15 pounds lighter at this point. Obviously, Martinez is now in the Majors, so his size did not stop him. However, I think his build left him less room for error, as it may for Williams.

A lot of ground still remains ahead for Williams, but his 2015 was promising.

“I can see a lot of guys on my team got better as the season went along,” he said. “I got a lot better since I started there and I finished the season pretty strong. So it was a good season all around.”

Our 2016 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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