Whatever Happened to…Blake Williams

As part of a series featuring the 2000 amateur draft class running at CREATiVESPORTS.com, I collaborated with Rob Blackstien on this capsule about the Cardinals' second first-rounder that year.

#24. Blake Williams, RHP, St. Louis – Another pitcher whose career was hurt by injuries and who's now wound up playing in Independent leagues. The big (6'5", 225) righty was plucked out of Southwest Texas St. University and received a $1.375 million signing bonus. He enjoyed decent success during his four seasons in the Cards organization – when he was healthy, that is.

After two fine seasons in the lower minors, Williams had to undergo Tommy John surgery in July 2001. He returned in 2002 ahead of schedule, but was shut down after just two starts due to tendinitis.

Williams was claimed by the Reds in the Rule 5 draft, but was returned to the Cards early the following season. Williams returned to action to pitch a good portion of the 2003 season at high-A ball, but he was ineffective, going 2-10 with a 4.36 ERA at Palm Beach.

Initially, Williams was considered to have an average fastball, plus curveball and a developing changeup, along with good command.

However, the club believed Williams was never the same after his surgery, and they subsequently released him in April 2004. The fact that no other Major League team would give a former first-rounder a shot speaks volumes.

Williams started last year with Somerset of the Atlantic League, but when he struggled and was sent to the bullpen, he requested his release and it was granted. Williams wound up moving to Bridgeport of the Atlantic League to finish out the 2004 campaign.

This year, the now 26-year-old pitched with Schaumburg of the Northern League, and was middling as a long reliever/spot starter (4-6, 31 G, 6 GS, 81.1 IP, 81 H, 45 R, 40 ER, 11 HR, 61 K, 5 WP, .261 BAA). Those numbers don't bode well for a return to organized ball, but he did pitch well down the stretch, receiving consideration for Pitcher of the Month for August/September.

Note the Cardinals selected Shawn Boyd as the 13th pick and the Braves took Adam Wainwright five spots after Williams. Aaron Herr was the 10th and final sandwich pick of the round, 40th overall, also taken by the Braves.

Williams' pick had been awarded to the Cardinals when Type A free agent Darren Oliver signed with the Texas Rangers. (Wainwright's pick came to Atlanta from Arizona as compensation for their signing of Russ Springer.)

Of those 40 players selected in the first round and supplemental first round in 2000, fifteen have made the majors, including standouts Rocco Baldelli with Tampa Bay, second baseman Chase Utley of the Phillies and reliever Aaron Heilman from the New York Mets.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.


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