Rays starting prospect Sam McWilliams has been put on notice to be selected in the Rule 5 draft after Baseball America tabbed McWilliams as a rumored Rule 5 target.
The Rays acquired McWilliams as one of the “players to be named later” in the Steven Souza trade, along with helium relief prospect Colin Poche, back on May 1st. McWilliams was a 8th round selection out of Beech High School in Tennessee by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2014 draft. He would later be flipped to the Arizona Diamondbacks the following offseason to help acquire Jeremy Hellickson.
McWilliams gained recognition after a breakout campaign in 2017 in Single-A, where he finished the year with a 2.84 ERA/3.30 FIP along with a .229 opponent average and posted the best K% of his professional career. Baseball America ranked him as the 13th best prospect in the Diamondbacks system following the season.
McWilliams throws a 90-95 mph two-seamer with good life and downhill plane out of his 6-foot-7 frame and draws comparisons with Brandon McCarthy. His breaking ball, a slider, grades out as average and flashes plus, and he made strides with his changeup after going from a circle-change to a split-change grip. He averaged just 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings in 2017, but the D-backs don’t mind because he induces so many ground balls. Scouts who saw McWilliams at his best like him as much as any starting pitcher in the system and say he has the upside of a No. 3 starter.
McWilliams finished the year in Double-A for the Rays, working mainly as a starting pitcher.
Toward the end of the season, the Biscuits started employing ‘The Opener’ strategy and McWilliams was used as the bulk guy a couple of times with so-so results, but there’s enough to build a dream on with this pitch mix, as a starter or reliever.
The Rule 5 draft is Thursday at Noon EST.