The Cleveland Indians selected RHSP Gavin Williams with the first-round pick (23rd overall) in the 2021 MLB Draft.

Gavin Williams – Right-Handed Starting Pitcher

School: East Carolina; Age: 21.9; Height: 6’6; Weight; 238; Bats: Left; Throws: Right

Pre-Draft Rankings:

IBI – 16– 31

Baseball America – 30

Prospects Live– 14

Willie Hood’s Analysis:

The soon-to-be-former, East Carolina Pirates ace, blossomed over his senior year with the club. He displayed improved control on the hill after entering the starting rotation full-time for the first time in his collegiate career. After suffering a finger injury in 2019 and another setback later limited his opportunities. The right-hander worked to refine his mechanics to improve his control and prepare himself to be a starting pitcher long-term. His improvement throughout this season reached its peak in his final start of the season as he dueled Vanderbilt right-hander Kumar Rocker in the Super Regional before his club ultimately bowed out of the series.

Williams is a physical presence on the mound showing off a strong frame with long levers (arms and legs). The North Carolina native has a similarly considerable upside as a former reliever turned starter with limited mileage on his arm (for a fourth-year player). He’s an intense competitor with strikeout potential. Stuff-wise, Williams displays a mid-to-upper 90’s fastball and has reportedly touched 100-101 mph. He has a solid four-pitch mix lead by a curveball that could become a plus pitch. His slider developed into an above-average pitch over the season. The righty’s changeup rounds out his four-pitch repertoire. Williams made impressive control gains allowing just 2.32 BB9 innings (above-average) paired with an excellent 14.39 K9 rate.

Justin Lada’s take:

Williams is a bit of a surprise at 23 only because we never really talked about a scenario where he’d be there. We talked about an outside shot of guys like Will Bednar and Gunnar Hoglund getting there, but not Williams. Cleveland apparently like him in high school where he was only in the low-90s at best, and now continues to throw 97-100. He’s a power arm that has come on strong late. He’s had some minor injuries (finger) in the past and was a reliever. But he got into the rotation this year, his control took steps forward and in the increase in innings he continued to hold that control and his stuff, including the velocity up to 100.

He could be ready to help the rotation by late 2022-2023. There’s ace upside here and a thought that even without a changeup that he’ll be able to start thanks to two good breaking pitches. He threw a whale of a game against eventual champion Vanderbilt, holding them to two runs and 13 strikeouts, capping off a brilliant season and run to get him up into the first round. Cleveland might have seen value here in a potential quick moving, top of the rotation arm that they didn’t think would be around at 23. He’ll immediately be a top-5 prospect.

Press Release:

The Cleveland Indians today announced the selection of RHP GAVIN WILIAMS with the 23rd overall pick in the first round of the 2021 MLB Draft.

Williams, 21, has pitched in parts of four seasons for the East Carolina Pirates, going 11-5 with a 2.65 ERA across 53 collegiate games/17 starts (149.1IP, 108H, 47R/44ER, 7HR, 53BB, 200SO). The 6-for-6, 238-pound right-hander, spent the bulk of his 2021 senior season in the Pirates rotation, finishing 10-1 with a 1.88 ERA (81.1IP, 57H, 18R/17ER, 3HR, 21BB, 130SO) to earn placement on six different All-America teams in addition to being selected as a finalist for both the Dick Howser and Golden Spikes Awards.

He finished among overall 2021 NCAA leaders in K’s-per-9.0IP (5th, 14.39), ERA (11th), strikeouts (11th), and wins (11th). Williams was originally selected by Tampa Bay in the 2017 June draft (30th round) out of Cape Fear High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he was a four-year letter winner (18-1, 1.06ERA, 212 strikeouts across 132.0IP). He is slated to graduate this summer with a degree in criminal justice.

Cleveland Indians Scouting Director Scott Barnsby on Gavin Williams

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