Ronnie Williams (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Right-hander Ronnie Williams earned an end-of-July promotion to the Midwest League in his age 20 season.

The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2017 continues at #28 with a right-hander likely to return to Peoria. Details for TCN members.

http://www.scout.com/player/188400-ronnie-williams?s=321

2016 rank Pos. DOB Signed Round
31 RHS 01 06 96 2014 2nd

Selected 2016 stats

Tm W L ERA FIP G GS SV IP H ER HR BB SO AVG G/AO BABIP
Peo 1 3 4.29 5.77 6 6 0 35.2 31 19 7 17 36 0.231 1.27 0.261
SC 4 2 2.72 2.91 7 7 0 46.1 37 17 1 7 33 0.213 1.36 0.254
Tot 5 5 3.40   13 13 0 82 68 36 8 24 69 0.221 1.32  

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (28): During the community vote, Ronnie Williams finished as the 28th highest-rated player. Williams received a bump in the rankings after finishing 36th last year. Williams received support his first mention in the vote from hoyalheel, who tabbed him #26.

After Williams was introduced in the voting, there was not a lot of commentary before he wound up at #29. CariocaCardinal stated that it is almost unheard of for a guy drafted as high as he was to spend three years in US short-season ball, without missing significant time due to injury. Scadder21 said that Williams wasn’t very polished when drafted and that he has a fast arm, but not much else. This echoed some comments made a couple years ago by UncleDenny who said he had over a dozen young pitchers that are just as young, with a similar track record, and mid-nineties stuff similar to Williams. – Jeremy Byrd

 

Derek Shore (30): From pitching for the first time outside his home state of Florida back in 2015, Williams' impressive growth as a pitcher continued, showing vast progressions with consistency as he reached a full-season affiliate for the time in his pro career this past summer.

Williams, 20, had to wait out the start of his season at extended spring training after Junior Fernandez, Sandy Alcantara, Jake Woodford, Derian Gonzalez, and Ryan Helsley jumped over him to open the year in the Low-A Peoria rotation. Williams took it all in stride, working to make his delivery more repetitive while trying to find a consistent release point.

The athletically-gifted right-hander gained confidence in his fastball with his changeup becoming a more consistent strike offering. Williams also became more adept at throwing his curveball in certain counts, depending on a sinker to get him out of high-leverage spots.

Those improvements helped him pitch above the New York Penn-League level to a 2.72 ERA through seven starts (46 1/3 IP) and he received some high marks from his coaches along the way.

"Ronnie is a bulldog," State College pitching coach Darwin Marrero said. "He is a bulldog, who has been pitching a lot in the short-season and he has finally started to figure it out. Ronnie is a gamer. He is a guy even when his stuff is not on, he is trying to grow and mature in the game. He finds ways how to stay in the game longer.

"Very athletic and very coachable. Good kid, great kid."

Williams finished his 2016 season in the Midwest League, compiling a 1-3 record and 4.29 ERA over six starts (35 2/3 IP) for the Chiefs.

"Ronnie is electric on the mound," Peoria pitching coach Dernier Orozco said. "He is a guy, who's emotional. He had some trouble early when he come to us with control - you can say control, but struggled with the command of the fastball as well. He made some adjustments with his approach and started working down a little bit more. He started to get better.

"He's got a good changeup, a good curveball. He's a young kid, who needs to pitch more and understand how to pitch."

In the past, Williams utilized a traditional three-pitch - fastball, change, and curve mix. According to industry sources, he has shown three fastballs, with his four-seam fastball working in the 93-94 mph band, a two-seamer at 90-91 mph with hard run, and an average cutter at 90-91 mph as well.

Williams' changeup has more bat-missing ability than the curve, but the latter is said to grade out as an above-average offering when it has its proper bite. He has become confident enough to throw all his pitches in any count now.

The Miami, FL native has an up-tempo delivery with some inconsistency from the repeatability standpoint due to some length in his arm action causing his command to slip at times. That said, he is an elite athlete, who has shown recent polish on the mound and continues to fill out his projectable frame.

Scouts remain split on him as a starter or reliever, but if he develops sufficient fastball command paired with his promising secondaries, then there is definitely a starter profile. If not, going to the bullpen is his fallback.

Williams should return to Peoria for his first full season as a professional in 2017.

 

Brian Walton (31): All three voters are in pretty close agreement that Williams is a top 30ish prospect in the system for the third consecutive year. While the 20-year-old did not move closer to the top of the list over the last 12 months, considering the pitchers who have joined the system and the overall wealth of pitching from top to bottom, placing in the top 30 overall is no small matter.

The concern mentioned above about the amount of time it took Williams to earn his way out of short-season ball is interesting, but only to a point. He will most likely pitch next season, his age 21 year, in the Midwest League, having already gained a head start there at the end of the 2016 campaign. That is not off-track; as last season, the average age of pitchers in the Class-A circuit was 21.8.

More important than his calendar age, however, is his readiness to take on advanced competition. In the case of Williams, some personal adjustments are still underway.

Durability and dependability are certainly not issues for Williams, however. He has demonstrated a consistent ability to pitch deep into games that is unusual for a pitcher at these levels. Specifically, across his 13 starts in 2016, Williams averaged an impressive 6 1/3 innings.

I asked Orozco to be more specific about what Williams needs to do to become even more effective. It seems coaches are looking to find the exact balance between showing emotion and remaining under control.

“Ronnie Williams is a young guy,” Orozco said this fall from the Arizona Fall League. “It is hard for the guy. On the mound, you can see him walking around and you need to be a little more under control. But that is how he is. As we talked about earlier, everybody is different. You don’t want to take the competitiveness away from the guy. We are just talking about being a little more in control on the mound so he can be able to execute better pitches.”

A return to the Chiefs next spring would perhaps put Williams alongside 2016 college draftees Connor Jones (15 months older) and Zac Gallen (four months older), who like Williams, were selected in the top three rounds of their respective drafts.

Of course, the speed at which they progress from there may depend most on who demonstrates the most consistency in 2017. Fully harnessing his considerable talent to help accomplish that is perhaps Williams’ biggest open question.

TCN Scouting Grade: 5, Risk: High (click here to review scales)

 

Our 2017 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. Thank you for being a member!

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