Milwaukee’s Devin Williams was downright nasty in 2020, almost to an unfair extent. He posted an excellent 0.33 ERA, not to mention an .089 batting average against and a 0.63 WHIP. However, perhaps the most impressive part of his year was his astronomical rate from the 2020 season. It was a whopping 53 percent. FIFTY-THREE PERCENT! He struck out over half of the batters he faced in the regular season last year. He also ranked in the top ten in the National League in ERA, WHIP, H/9, and K/9. He was phenomenal to say the least.

Take a look at his Statcast profile from last year, in terms of percentile rankings, and you’ll see how incredible he was. In fact, I don’t know if the image itself does him justice.

Typically, red is bad, but not here. Not here at all. When thinking back on Williams’ 2020 campaign, the words that come to mind are along the lines of phenomenal, historic, electric, dynamic and overpowered. Even those words don’t do his season justice.

He was the only pitcher to be in the 93rd percentile or better in each of the following categories: whiff rate, strikeout rate, hard hit rate and exit velocity. Only Raisel Iglesias , Josh Hader and Williams were in the 93rd percentile or better in whiff rate, strikeout rate, and hard hit rate.

As you can see, Williams was elite in 2020 in terms of missing bats and avoiding hard contact. What was also awesome was that his strikeout rate steadily rose over the course of the year. He continued to get better and better, and missed more and more bats.

If you read my player profile on Edwin Díaz , you might remember a lot of “only one reliever posted a better X than Diaz.” Well, it’s finally time to uncover who that reliever was.

It’s Devin Williams .

  • No reliever posted a lower zone contact rate than Williams
  • No reliever posted a lower contact rate than Williams.
    • In fact, he was the only qualified reliever under 54 percent, and Williams was at 49.5 percent
  • No reliever posted a higher swinging strike rate than Williams

Now, an interesting thing from his batted ball profile is that his 61 percent ground ball rate from 2020 is definitely excellent, but it’s a significant outlier compared to his minor league marks. In 2019 at the big league level, it was 40.9 percent. Throughout his minor league career, other than the 59.8 percent and 47.2 percent marks he posted at rookie ball, his other highest mark was 47.2 percent. I would expect his ground ball mark to be slightly lower in 2020, and each of his pitches to post a ground ball rate somewhere in between his 2019 and 2020 marks.

The other key for Williams will be staying healthy. He got hurt last year with a rotator cuff issue and had Tommy John surgery that affected his 2017 season. How much of a workload can he feasibly handle? His career high workload is 97.1 innings pitched back in 2016, but he hasn’t thrown more than 53.1 innings in a season since. In fact, since missing all of 2017 with Tommy John surgery, he’s logged just 131.2 innings on the mound, with 70.2 of that coming in 2019. Chances are he probably could handle a full reliever workload, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Milwaukee keeps him closer to 60 innings, compared to 75-80ish, given his health issues in recent seasons.

While he may not be able to sustain 2020’s astronomical strikeout rate, he should be one of the elite sources of strikeouts from a reliever and that carries plenty of value even if his path to saves is blocked by Josh Hader . In fact, that’s about the only thing holding him back in 2021. He’s a massive boost to your ratios, but he’s being drafted as a mid-tier closer. It’s an expensive price to pay, sure, but the upside is immense.

He’s currently the 14th reliever off the board, and he’s the first reliever that isn’t the team’s closer to begin the year, per NFBC data. His strikeout prowess from 2020 certainly makes this understandable, and the possibility that Hader gets traded is enticing enough to roster Williams this season. The dynamic right-hander is one injury or one trade away from arguably becoming the most dominant, potentially even overpowered closer in fantasy baseball.


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