Pittsburgh Pirates: Who to Target in a Potential Trevor Williams Trade
By Noah Wright
Recently, the Toronto Blue Jays have shown interest in Pittsburgh Pirates’ starter Trevor Williams. In the event of a trade, who could the Pittsburgh Pirates target?
A few days ago, news broke that the Toronto Blue Jays were showing interest in Pittsburgh Pirates’ right hander Trevor Williams. The right hander has been a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation since 2017.
Williams truly broke out in 2018 when he tossed 170.2 innings of 3.11 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 3.86 FIP ball. Though he only carried a 18% strikeout rate, he walked just 7.8% of the batters he faced and had a strong 0.78 HR/9. However, ERA estimators weren’t all that kind to him as he had a 4.68 SIERA, 4.54 xFIP and 4.28 DRA.
The following year, over-performance seemed to catch up to Williams as he registered a 5.38 ERA, 5.12 FIP and 1.41 WHIP across 145.2 innings. Granted, he did suffer from injuries during the year, the results still weren’t pretty. He did manage a career low 6.9% walk rate, but that was overshadowed by his 1.67 HR/9, and 17.8% strikeout rate. Overall, Williams registered a 5.08 SIERA, 5.25 xFIP and 5.74 DRA.
Heading into Wednesday, Williams looks like a split down the middle of his 2018 and 2019. Entering his start on Wednesday, Williams owned a 3.70 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, but that wentwith a 4.20 FIP, 4.48 SIERA and 4.63 xFIP. He has seen his strikeout rate go above 20% for the first time in his career, now at 21.7%. Though his walk rate is up from last year at 7.5%, his home run rate is down to just 1.11 per 9.
However, he could be better seeing that he currently sits in the top 91st and top 90th percentile of exit velocity and hard hit rate. xERA has him at 3.63, very close to his actual ERA. He’s also is considered above average in terms of xWOBA, xBA and xSLG.
With two years of control left after 2020 through arbitration, any team looking for a solid number four starter should be talking to the Pittsburgh Pirates, as Williams would fit that bill. Resident site expert David Slusser estimated that Williams could bring back a few 40-grade prospects, or possibly a 45 grade guy. So what would that look like.
The most prominent 45-grade prospect that I would target is catcher Gabriel Moreno. Moreno currently ranks as the Blue Jays’ 8th best prospect. Catching is something the Jays have an abundance of with Alejandro Kirk, who ranks as their 7th best prospect, Danny Jansen who graduated prospect status in 2019, and is a top tier defender, and Pirates’ former first round pick, Reese McGuire. This would seem to fit, due to the need the Pittsburgh Pirates have for catching in their farm system.
Last year, Moreno played his entire season at the Rookie-Ball level, posting a strong .280/.337/.485 line and 134 wRC+ across 341 plate appearances. He also blasted 12 long balls, and ran out 17 doubles. Moreno doesn’t walk a whole lot, as he put up a meager 6.5% walk rate, but he went down on strike three just 11.1% of the time, resulting in a 0.58 BB/K ratio. Moreno has a future 50 hit grade, and 45 future game power grade, but a 50 future raw power grade. He obviously isn’t too fast with a 40 future speed grade, but he is a good fielder with above average 55 grades for his glove work, and arm.
In terms of 40-grade prospects, the Blue Jays have a lot of those grade of prospects. One that does catch my eye is right field prospect Griffin Conine. Last year at Rookie-Ball, the Blue Jays’ 18th best prospect hit for a .283/.371/.576 line and 169 wRC+ with an 10.9% walk rate. His best tool is his power, and he has a lot of pure, raw power.
Conine blasted 22 long balls, has a 60 future power grade, 70 raw power grade, and 60 throw grade. He also has a future 50 fielding grade, so he isn’t an awful fielder. But the glaring issue is that Conine struck out over 30% of the time, 35.9% to be exact, and has a future hit grade of just 35. There’s a lot of inherent risk, but I could see him being a better fielding Adam Dunn, which wouldn’t be the worst thing.
Still, I would try and keep away from a scenario where the Pittsburgh Pirates get Conine and Conine only, and target a young high upside guy like 40-grade pitcher Eric Pardinho. MLB Pipeline ranked Pardinho ranked as the 6th best international prospect. The Brazilian product is currently just 19 years old, and spent his 2019 season between Low-A and Rookie Ball. He pitched to the tune of a 2.15 ERA, 2.92 FIP and 1.22 WHIP across 37.2 innings of work. Through he had solid, but unimpressive walk and strikeout numbers that included a 10.7% walk rate and 23.3% strikeout rate, he did have a 31.5% K rate, and 7.9% walk rate in 2018.
All of Pradinho’s pitches grade out as average or above average. His best pitch is his curveball with a future of 55, and his fastball, change-up, and slider all are given 50 future grades. The risk in Pradinho is that he just underwent Tommy John surgery in February. He doesn’t really rely on velocity to get outs, as he currently tops out at 94 MPH on his fastball, so in the long run, it might not have a large effect on his effectiveness. It still is a risk, so I would probably ask for another 40 grade prospect. Regardless, Pradinho is a very exciting young pitcher who has a lot of talent, and someone I definitely would target in a Williams trade.