26. Case Williams (141 points, 18 ballots)
The 6’3” right-handed starter, who turns 21 next month, is likely best known as Colorado’s fourth-round pick out of Douglas County HS in 2020. Williams was traded to the Cincinnati Reds before he could debut with the Rockies, then was re-acquired in late July 2021 as part of the Mychal Givens trade. Williams began 2021 with Cincinnati’s A-ball affiliate as one of the younger players in the league (about 2.9 years younger than average). With that context, it’s easier to be happy about his 2021 season despite the 5.73 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 5.6 BB/9 rate, and 6.1 K/9 rate in 75 1⁄3 IP between the two orgs.
Williams repeated in Low-A Fresno to start 2022, where he was still 1.8 years younger than league average. This time around, Williams brought down his ERA (to 4.22) and WHIP (to 1.39) while increasing his K/9 (to 9.0), and decreasing his BB/9 (to 3.4) in 89 2⁄3 innings across 16 starts for Fresno. That was enough for Williams to get a promotion to High-A in early August, where he was 3.2 years younger than league average.
Williams had six starts for Spokane, throwing 32 1⁄3 innings with a 5.57 ERA (4.37 xFIP), 1.55 WHIP, 9.2 K/9 rate, and 3.1 BB/9 rate — roughly comparable to his Low-A numbers considering the jump in competition. The Rockies liked that enough for Williams to get a one-start cameo in Double-A Hartford (where he was 4.5 years younger than league average) in mid-September. All Williams did there was strike out 12 over six innings, allowing four runs on six hits and a walk.
It was a nice capper to a successful 2022 season for Williams, who threw 128 innings of 4.64 ERA ball across three levels as a 20-year-old with a 1.42 WHIP, 9.5 K/9 rate, and 3.2 BB/9 rate. In comparison to 2021, Williams threw 53 more innings, struck out 84 more batters, and walked one fewer, all despite pitching some of those innings against much more advanced hitting.
Here’s some pre-draft video of Williams courtesy of Perfect Game:
Baseball Prospectus ranked Williams 19th in their November system write-up:
[Williams] is still a work in progress as a pitching prospect. His fastball can catch a bit too much plate, given that he sits low-90s. A bit more velocity might help set up his potential above-average curve, and he will need to find a bit more fade on the change-up as well. Williams has the breaker to miss some bats, but needs to firm up the fastball command and the rest of the arsenal to settle in at the back of a major league rotation, or in the middle innings of a bullpen.
Marc Delucchi of BP wrote an eyewitness account of Williams from a mid-June appearance with Fresno, giving him a 45 OFP evaluation with this conclusion:
[Williams] has a good feel for locating his fastball and break on his curveball, but his changeup is lagging far beyond the other two offerings, which aren’t good enough to dominate even at Single-A. He’s a long way from his ceiling, but barring a significant improvement, he projects as a multi-inning swingman.
Williams was listed as a player of note in the Fangraphs system write-up in January 2022, saying only that “[Williams] sits 90-92 mph and has an average breaking ball.”
Williams has been desirable enough as a prospect to be traded twice already. He has done well as one of the younger players in the league in both of his professional seasons, and looks like a good bet to stick in the rotation for now. He’ll be 21 this season and could be starting it in Double-A, meaning that by the time the Rockies have to decide on Williams’ 40-man roster status after the 2024 season, he might already have plenty of experience in the upper minors (or already be in the majors if it goes well).
The age/level performance Williams had in 2022 was encouraging, as was his appearance on BP’s top 20 prospects a few months ago. It was enough for me to elevate Williams up to a 40 FV prospect and sneak him just onto my list at 30 among a lot of similar pitching prospects.