Pittsburgh Pirates need former Sun Devil in their 2018 rotation

Trevor Williams is a model of consistency amid pitching uncertainty

Pitcher Trevor Williams might not be the best player on the Pittsburgh Pirates, but his consistency this season shows he deserves a spot in the team’s starting rotation for 2018.

Williams, a former Sun Devil who pitched for ASU from 2011-13, came into the 2017 regular season vying for a spot as either a starter or reliever. He got his chance to start on May 8 after other pitchers struggled to perform and has not looked back.

The Pirates have two high-ceiling pitchers in Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow who were drafted out of high school, but have yet to reach their full potential at the major-league level. 

Williams’ time at ASU might be giving him an advantage over his teammates.

“By the time he had gotten in the (Pirates’) organization, he had good control, didn’t walk guys and had the traits of a college guy,” Eli Nellis, writer for BucsDugout.com, said. “That’s a big reason why he has a starting spot (in 2018) ... because he is more consistent.”

While some young players opt to enter the draft and forego college altogether, Williams spent three seasons in Tempe refining his skills and developing as an athlete without the pressures of a big signing bonus or being constantly monitored by MLB scouts and eager fans.  

At the end of his collegiate career, Williams finished with the fifth-lowest earned run average since 1975 in ASU history at 2.99 (minimum of 150 innings pitched). 

His ability to control his pitches was a big reason he was successful at ASU, was drafted in the second round in 2013 and has had success in Pittsburgh. 

“He’s not spectacular, but he’s very solid in a way that he can give you a solid start every five days,” Nellis said.

The Pirates are entering a unique situation where they have a mixture of young and old talent and are in a place where they could either go all in to compete for a championship one last time, or tear the roster down in preparation for a rebuild. 

Based on his performance in Pittsburgh, Williams should be a part of the starting rotation no matter which direction the Pirates choose to take next year. 

Williams’ 4.07 ERA this past season is not great, and he is not a big strikeout pitcher (117 in 150.1 innings). However, this ASU alumnus is exactly the kind of pitcher the Pirates need. 

“He limits his walks,” Nellis said. “He’s capable of having a good start out there. (The Pirates are) going to want that next year.”

Aside from rotation ace Gerrit Cole, a resurgent Ivan Nova and former top draft pick Taillon presumably occupying the first three spots in the rotation next year, the back end of the Pirates’ starting staff is up for grabs.

Williams slots perfectly into the number four spot, leaving the fifth job available for Glasnow, Chad Kuhl or someone else to take it. 

Even with Glasnow and Kuhl competing to make the rotation, Williams is well-suited to take over as the fourth starter.

Glasnow has underperformed in brief MLB action, and Kuhl seems like more of a bullpen piece than a long-term starter, according to Nellis. 

“Williams’ reliability is in his favor as far as getting a rotation spot out of Spring Training,” Nellis said. “He has that sort of polish guys like Taillon and Glasnow (don’t have).”

The Pirates most likely will not compete for a World Series no matter what they decide to do next season because they share a division with the reigning champions Chicago Cubs, upstart Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals, who always seem to play well when it matters most.  

One thing should be certain now: Trevor Williams should be in the starting rotation on Opening Day 2018 when the Pirates head to Detroit to take on the Tigers. 

Reach the columnist at Steven.Slobodzian@asu.edu or follow @PSlobodzianASU on Twitter.

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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors. 

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