On the first day of expanded rosters, the Washington Nationals selected the contract of reliever Austen Williams. Can he earn a bullpen role for 2019?
After the Washington Nationals made a couple of deals on Friday, it opened up two spots on their 40 man roster. This meant they could select the contract of promising young pitcher Austen Williams, who now has a chance to make a case for a bullpen spot next season.
The right-hander was drafted in the sixth round by the Nats back in 2014 out of Texas State as a starter. But after struggling in the mid-to-upper levels of the minors, before the 2018 season, the organization converted him to a reliever.
The change has turned out to be a huge success this year. Before his first major league call-up, he sported a 1.19 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A while striking out a sensational 89 batters in 68 innings. But what exactly caused this drastic uptick in form for Williams?
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Well, Mick Reinhard, of Mayflies & Big Flies, talked to Williams back in June about the adjustments he made. The righty said that “the move to the bullpen allows me to focus more on two pitches” as now he won’t face hitters a second time, he doesn’t have to hold back.
Williams also told Reinhard “I feel like I can throw whatever I want and let it play in the strike zone and still get outs”. The increased confidence in his stuff playing up out of the bullpen has allowed him to flourish.
You can check out the full article Reinhard wrote below, which includes other quotes from his manager and pitching coach at Harrisburg.
It’s not the first time the Nats have had some amount of success converting a former starter to the bullpen. Sammy Solis and Blake Treinen are the most recent examples and even Wander Suero started some games before the transition to a full-time reliever in 2016.
All three have had varying degrees of success out of the bullpen, and Treinen has been lights out with the Oakland Athletics. The Nats need to keep churning out relievers from their minor leagues to keep up with some of the better teams in the league, with heavily investing in free agents an unwise strategy.
Suero already seems to have a secure role in the Nationals bullpen next season, and now Williams has his audition. With the 11.8 K/9, 1.19 ERA and the fact he’s not allowed a home run this season, he has a real chance to put his name on the map for 2019 at the very least. It’s going to be fun to see what he can bring to the big league table in September.
Austen Williams has fully deserved this chance to show that he belongs with the Washington Nationals. Expanded rosters will allow him to get a few appearances to leave a positive first impression on the big league staff.