Prospect Kendall Williams – Potential Dodgers Ace?

Kendall Williams, 2021 Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Photo credit Gail Verderico, @1baseball_gail on Twitter, and baseball_gail on Instagram

Prospects Hiding in Plain Sight

Accessible MiLB data has increased exponentially over the past five years. Yet, MiLB is still comprised of a vast enterprise of hidden stars, unrealized talent, and prospect-depth. The sheer girth of the Minors is anything but minor. Diving into an ocean of players, players’ stats, splits, Statcast metrics, physical measurements, pitch selection (etc.), can be intimidating. Therefore, it’s necessary to break down this monster conglomerate into smaller and smaller pieces. At the team level, one of baseball’s smallest data pools, it is my job to illuminate the Dodgers’ hidden stars for the world to see.

Prospect Search Party

Finding the next great prospect isn’t easy. But sometimes they force us to find them themselves.

Kendall Williams fired a bright-red flare over his last two starts. 7.2 IP through 2 starts, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 15 K’s. Yep! Found em!

Kendall Williams, RHP, High-A

Brought to the west coast from Toronto in a trade that sent Ross Stripling to the “Great North,” Williams (along with Ryan Noda 1B/OF) was one of the two players to be named later. The former (Williams) is an extremely projectable right-handed pitching prospect. Taken in the 2nd round (52nd overall) of the 2019 MLB Draft from IMG Academy, the nationally recognized powerhouse program based out of Florida, this former high-school prodigy is as physically gifted as they come. Standing 6’6″, 210 lbs, Williams’ physicality immediately leaps off the page. More impressive, however, is the professionalism and polish that he displays on the hill.

His setup and delivery are cohesively fluid and succinct. It’s evident that his plus-command and plus-control are both direct byproducts of such. Until 2022, Williams found middling success in pro-baseball. Extra tall athletes grow in very quick spurts. Such drastic growth can take time for the mind and body to master. Coordination, muscle growth, strength, conditioning (etc.), all face restorations after such rapid and drastic change. The only way to make all of these things come together is typically dependent upon time itself.

Fast-forward to now and boom. Liftoff.

Williams pounds the zone, limiting free passes, and keeping the bases as clear as possible. Although he’s not a strikeout specialist (quite yet), the tall righty induces a ton of groundballs (a 1.45 GB/FB ratio since his promotion to High-A on May 1st). From May 1 on, Williams made 8 starts at High-A Great Lakes. During that span, the youngster limited his HR total to only 4. Prior to the promotion, he gave up five long-balls in only four starts.

This year, the projectable RHP has pitched to the tune of a 3.93 ERA, 50.1 IP, 49 H, 9 HR (with only 4 since May 1st), 52 K’s, .253 opponent average, and a 1.21 WHIP. Since his callup to the Great Lakes Loons, Williams has improved in virtually every statistical category. As I mentioned earlier, though he’s not a strikeout specialist per se, he certainly limits his walks. In fact, his BB% is a mere 5.1% thus far in High-A and his K/BB ratio is a very respectable 4.57. Plus, he’s hovering around 9.5-10 K/9 on his career. That’s nothing to sneeze at. And then there are the past two starts. The reason we’re all here.

As those two appearances can attest, these things are prone to change.

“But Wait… There’s More!”

Expect the IMG product to continue improving. Williams’ opponent average on balls in play is moderately high at .330 in High-A. Since his WHIP, an average(ish) 1.26 since the promotion to High-A, isn’t representative of his pristine walk-rate, all that’s left to justify the oddly average(ish) WHIP are hits. Because Williams’ OBABIP will eventually come back down to (at least) his career average of .298, there’s little-to-no reason to expect any regression in that department.

Prospect Procedural

Several aspects of Kendall Williams’ pitching have improved. His HR% is down, along with his BB%, Fly Ball%, Opponent’s Average, FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), and xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching), performance-based metrics + hit-probability. Further, his K/BB ratio is currently a career-best 4.57.

Formula For Success

Pitchers ultimately attempt to reduce fly-balls because fly-balls lead to home runs. If a pitcher can succeed in

1. Limiting fly-balls and

2. Limiting home runs by limiting fly-balls and (additionally)

3. Limiting home runs by all means other than limiting fly-balls (only) then

4. They’ve figured out the equation.

Kendall Williams has somehow learned #3. How he’s doing it is probably a mix of infield popups and k’s and something else. I don’t know exactly how he’s doing it yet. But he’s figured it out and that’s certainly something.

1. His FB% in High-A is 32.3% (very good).

2. His HR/FB% is 12.9% (career-best)

3. His HR/9 Ratio is 1.08 (career-best)

4. All signs point to Williams’ impending career-best season.

Little Resistance Into The Future

The one-time “player to be named later” is starting to realize his vast potential. If he can continue his ascension in the same nature as his last month and a half, there’s no reason currently pointing to him ever slowing down. That’s exactly what the Dodgers and their fans are ready to hear.

I hope the work speaks for itself.
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1 Comment

  1. At this point what grades would you place on his arsenal and future value? I’ve seen earlier scouting reports that tab Williams as a #4 starter with reliever risk.

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