Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Most Surprising Performer at Each Level

These Pittsburgh Pirates prospects have been the most surprising this season
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
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Triple-A Indianapolis - Alika Williams

If you want an example of a guy who had no expectations with the Pirates, look no further than Alika Williams. The Pirates acquired Williams from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for relief pitcher Robert Stephenson. Not only did the Pirates have to surrender very little to acquire Williams, but he did very little for the Rays throughout his time in their minor league system, despite being their 2020 first-round pick.

Williams had an uninspiring .254/.331/.383 triple-slash, along with a .328 wOBA and 96 wRC+ during his time in the Rays’ system. While he had a 9.4% walk rate and 18.4% strikeout rate, Williams hit for little power with a .130 isolated slugging percentage. Williams only hit .254 as well, so he only had a solid but unspectacular OBP despite his strong walk rate. While this wasn’t a terrible performance, it wasn’t close to what the Rays likely were expecting.

This really sounded like the second coming of Cole Tucker: a speedy middle infield type who was all-glove/no-hit. But Williams has been hitting better than he ever has for the Pirate Triple-A affiliate. Williams is currently batting .272/.352/.424 and 95 wRC+. His three home runs in 105 plate appearances is a rate he’s never even come close to in the past.

Williams is still walking at a 9.5% rate but has struck out just a dozen times for an 11.4% strikeout rate. Even these numbers are selling him a little short because he went 0-5 in his most recent game. Prior to that game, Williams had a .818 OPS, .366 wOBA, and 106 wRC+. Williams has four multi-hit games in July already.

Williams has been red hot since late June. Since 6/20, the infielder is batting .339/.418/.559 with a 145 wRC+. All three of his home runs as a Pirates prospect have come in this 67 plate appearance stretch. He also has six walks and seven Ks.

Williams could force himself into an already crowded middle infield picture, which I don’t think anyone would complain about. If the Pirates give him regular time in the major leagues, he’ll win a Gold Glove. With Jared Triolo now in the bigs, Williams is likely their best defensive infield prospect. His power coming around even just a little could make him an interesting prospect. It could end up being a pretty decent return for a reliever who greatly struggled for the Pirates and hasn’t done so hot for the Rays.