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Trevor Williams - 2019 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper

After being acquired by the Pirates from the Marlins in 2015, Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Trevor Williams made his MLB debut in 2016 and then pitched 150 1/3 innings in 2017. While it was good that the Pirates got a viable pitcher for a minor leaguer that has yet to pitch an inning for the Marlins (Richard Mitchell), Williams only had a 4.36 ERA and 1.36 WHIP over his first 163 innings with the Pirates. Allowing nearly a hit per inning in 2017 (145 in 150 1/3), Williams was not a great option for fantasy owners leading into 2018.

His 7-7 record and 4.36 ERA in 99 first half innings in 2018 led many to just see Williams as a middling option at starting pitcher, not much to watch for fantasy purposes. Then, in 71 1/3 second-half innings, Williams allowed just 11 earned runs, 57 hits, and posted a 7-3 record and 1.07 WHIP. While his 14-10 record and 3.11 ERA (as well as his 1.18 WHIP) for the season were nice, his second-half performance won fantasy titles for many owners in weekly leagues.

With a huge second half in 2018, can Williams maintain his performance put together a full season as a viable SP?

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Which Williams Will We See In 2019?

Since Williams' 2018 season was so firmly split between the first half and second half, all analysis on his season must be centered around the differences in each half. In the first 35 1/3 innings of 2018, Williams posted a 2.29 ERA and, while he had just 23 strikeouts and 17 walks, was firmly on the fantasy radar because of his low ERA. Then he had a 5.51 ERA in May and 5.32 ERA in June, allowing 10 home runs over the two months. While the ratios may have not been there, Williams did have a season-low 15.9% line drive rate in June, as well as a 25.4% soft hit ball rate that was above average, and a 47.8% GB rate.

After a strong June in terms of advanced stats, Williams had a 2.33 ERA in July before dipping lower to a 1.16 ERA in August and finishing the season off with a 2.20 ERA in Sept/Oct. Looking at his batted ball profile, the one thing that stands out is that, in August, Williams had his worst GB% of the season (33.7) and worst soft hit ball rate of the season as well (14.1%). The best thing for fantasy owners is that Williams' Sept/Oct included his best K-BB% of the season (18.3) and he held batters to a 20.3% hard hit ball rate.


Is It Smart To Buy Williams?

As many good things that we can say about Williams, this is still a pitcher that had a 4.54 xFIP last season and struck out just 6.64 per nine. While his GB% rate was 40.8% for the season last year, he did have a 48% GB rate in 2017 and his strand rate was at an acceptable 76.6%. A jump in line drive and fly ball rate as well are not good, as is the fact that his hard hit ball rate was up and soft hit ball rate was down. Still, the changes made in the second half cannot be discounted.

The best part of Williams: his ADP is 388, so he likely will not be drafted in most leagues. This goes without saying, but I will still say it: there are worse things to do with the last pick of your draft then get a starter that had a sub-1.50 ERA in the second half. This could be the biggest sleeper leading into 2019, as the changes he made at the end of 2018 could make him a SP3/SP4-type pitcher in 2019.

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