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Selected by the Washington Nationals in the sixth round of the 2014 MLB Draft, right-handed pitching prospect Austen Williams has stalled out as a starter over the last couple years between High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. In 2017 alone split between those two levels, the 24-year-old (DOB: December 19, 1992) righty made 19 starts and finished just 3-11 with a 5.52 ERA, allowing 121 hits and 22 walks against just 76 strikeouts in 91.1 innings pitched. Two disabled list stints this summer necessitated the Nats send Williams to the Arizona Fall League last month, too, which is where Baseball Census observed him throw several times for the Mesa Solar Sox.

Strong with good feel for his full arsenal and a lot of downward life on his stuff, there’s a lot to like in this Nats prospect, and yet something does have to change if Austen Williams is going to finally find success and push past Double-A in 2018. A full-time move away from the rotation and into short-stint work out of the bullpen may do just that. Below, you’ll find our full Austen Williams scouting report, including game video, tool grades, projections, a discussion of why the bullpen might be the right step to take, and more on the Washington Nationals pitching prospect.

Austen Williams Scouting Report, Washington Nationals — 2017

Dates observed in 2017: Arizona Fall League

Fastball (55)
Heavy fastball with arm-side action; consistent run and sink; bores in on RHH. Ability to manipulate the pitch down in the zone with success; will flatten out a bit when left up, but lots of life at the knees; eats up inner half against RHH in particular. Almost tumbling action at times; lots of downward movement to draw ground ball contact when down in the zone. Improved command would make this pitch a true ground ball machine. Velocity: 90-94, T 95.

Curveball (45)
Sharp with 11-to-5 break and good depth. Good feel for both sides of the plate with it, though more nuanced command beyond that is lacking. Sharp enough at best to stay off the barrel, but not a true wipeout pitch yet; needs to be harder and sharper with late break to more consistently miss bats. Sells pitch well with fastball arm speed. Velocity: 79-81, T 82.

Changeup (50)
Circle changeup; tumbles through plate with late arm-side run. Replicates arm speed from fastball; effective outer half pitch against LHH that draws roll-over contact. Lots of hand manipulation at release point; good feel for the pitch to both sides of the plate, and could improve even further with command nuances and slightly more consistent execution. Velocity: 81-83, T 84.

Control/Command (55/45)
Low walk rates last few years as starter; control profile is stronger than average with command lagging behind, especially side to side with off-speed and staying down with life on the fastball. Little margin for error with stuff and velocity; command misses tend to get hit hard when left up without premium velocity to overcome. Profiles as a bullpen arm from here with little time left for development; stuff and command may play up in shorter stints working in relief; velo may register harder, too.

Three-quarters arm slot with good arm speed; lands closed to plate and throws across his body with long arm swing on the back side. Easy to pick up early, especially for LHH. Mild effort and modest deception, with potential to play up some in shorter bullpen stints. Relatively consistent mechanics compared to where he reportedly was two and three years ago; release points consistent, but with overall command execution still lacking. With runner on first, sat 1.41 - 1.49 to the plate.

Arsenal and raw life on stuff far more impressive than his summer numbers would have suggested. Prime candidate to transition to bullpen now, where stuff should play up in shorter stints after proving it in relief work at the AFL. Big, physical kid who’s in very good shape with broad shoulders and strong build; more or less maxed out for size.

Austen Williams Scouting Report — Washington Nationals — 2017 Game Video

Austen Williams Scouting Report — Notes, Analysis & Projection

This may be a stretch considering he’s been stalled out between High-A and Double-A for two straight years as a remarkably ineffective starting pitcher, but Austen Williams was pretty impressive in flashes out at the Arizona Fall League with exceptional and consistent downward life in his entire arsenal. To that end, and considering his track record, there’s no good reason for the Washington Nationals not to send Williams to the bullpen in 2018, where his command profile will be a better fit and where his strong frame and lively stuff could play up into a true power role in short stint, high-leverage work. At his absolute ceiling there, the righty might find headway working as a set-up man with multiple late-moving pitches and the velocity to back it up, though his future consists of a more likely floor somewhere below that as a long/middle reliever.

But regardless of how it shakes out with development in the next few years, after four seasons and 81 starts to begin his career, it’s clear that Austen Williams just doesn’t quite fit as a rotation arm and it’s time for a change. I’d hope to see him spend 2018 at Double-A Harrisburg working exclusively out of the bullpen, with a shot to move fairly quickly depending on how he executes in that new role. On the other hand, if the Washington Nationals decide to keep Williams as a starting pitcher next year, it’s a safe bet he’ll fizzle out quickly as organizational depth unable to adjust to better and better hitters multiple times through the lineup and end up like a fellow AFL teammate with the Nationals this year… If the Washington Nationals want to recoup any potential big league value out of Austen Williams, it’s time to send him to the ‘pen and let him loose in short stints to see, once and for all, if his lively stuff can work its way into a relief role of some significance.

Overall Future Potential (Future Value): Ought to be a bullpen arm at this point; stuff, life, and velocity give him a shot for high leverage (7th/8th inning) relief at absolute ceiling (50)

MLB ETA: 2019

Did you like this Austen Williams scouting report? Get more prospects here:

Washington Nationals OF Victor Robles — CLICK HERE

Washington Nationals RHP Kyle McGowin — CLICK HERE

Los Angeles Dodgers OF Shakir Albert — CLICK HERE

Texas Rangers SS Michael De Leon — CLICK HERE

Detroit Tigers 2B/3B Kody Eaves — CLICK HERE


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Bobby DeMuro

Bobby DeMuro is the founder of Baseball Census. A former college and independent league baseball player, he now watches more than 200 games a year working full time for the site. You can follow him on Twitter @BobbyDeMuro for more.

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