Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Looking at the Newly Acquired Alika Williams

Second baseman Alika Williams (7) throws to first for an out during the Montgomery Biscuits vs
Second baseman Alika Williams (7) throws to first for an out during the Montgomery Biscuits vs / Gregg Pachkowski / gregg@pnj.com / USA

The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired infield prospect Alika Williams from the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday. What does he bring to his new organization?

On Friday, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded relief pitcher Robert Stephenson to the Tampa Bay Rays for former first round pick Alika Williams. Williams was the 37th overall pick in the 2020 draft by the Rays out of Arizona State. So what is the infielder bringing to the Pirates?

Williams was stationed at Tampa Bya's Double-A affiliate prior to the deal, posting a respectable .237/.317/./417 triple-slash. Williams walked at an 8.6% walk rate, and has kept a K% below 20% at 19.4%. He has hit for some pop, belting five home runs, racking up 11 doubles, and posting a .179 isolated slugging percentage. This all comes to a .332 wOBA and 101 wRC+. Overall, he’s been a slightly above league average batter.

Williams does not have a very high offensive ceiling. He projects to have an average hit tool but below average power. While he makes contact at an above average rate, the quality of it is below average because of his lack of strength. He stands at 6’1”, 180 pounds, and while he’s only 24, his projectability has definitely slid in the wrong direction.

FanGraphs makes an interesting comparison to Zack Greinkie, in terms of his motion and swing. That might be one of the strangest player comps you’ll see, but it makes sense once you see his swing. Granted, while Greinke is one of the best modern day hitting pitchers, that still doesn’t paint a very optimistic picture.

Granted, Williams isn’t known for his offensive ability. It’s how he’s been able to handle the middle infield. Williams is a well above average defensive middle infielder with a strong enough arm to play on the left side of the dirt. He also covers a fair amount of ground with his plus speed. While he runs well, he hasn’t been all that aggressive on the base paths, only attempting 27 stolen bases (16 swipes, 11 caught stealing) in 211 games.

Williams currently projects as your standard defense-first speedy middle infielder. Although that’s not an exciting profile, you can’t help but be slightly curious to see if a mechanical change and some added muscle would help in raising his low offensive ceiling. As of right now, his offensive ceiling is a .260/.320/.350 batter, which isn’t terrible considering his defense up the middle. But his floor is Cole Tucker 2.0 but with a better glove.

Time will tell if Williams makes some adjustments and if those adjustments pay off. For a relief pitcher who was greatly struggling, Williams isn’t a terrible return. Hopefully, he can improve his game and become yet another notable middle infield prospect for the Bucs.

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