The Reds will call up pitching prospect Brandon Williamson for his major league debut tomorrow, tweets Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Cincinnati is still deciding whether to start him or deploy him following an opener, but he’ll make his major league debut in Colorado.
Williamson is already on the 40-man roster. Cincinnati selected his contract last offseason to keep him out of the Rule 5 draft. He’s spent the 2023 campaign on optional assignment to Triple-A Louisville. He joined the taxi squad earlier today and will formally get his first major league call tomorrow. Cincinnati will need to make a 26-man roster move to accommodate his promotion.
The 6’6″ southpaw entered the professional ranks in 2019. The Mariners selected him in the second round out of TCU. Williamson showed intriguing stuff and racked up huge strikeout tallies up through Double-A over his first couple pro seasons. Heading into 2022, Baseball America named him the sport’s #83 overall minor league talent and called him a potential mid-rotation arm. Coming out of the lockout, the Reds acquired him as the top prospect in their return for Jesse Winker in the trade that saw Seattle absorb the final three years of the Eugenio Suárez contract.
Since landing with the Reds, Williamson has seen his prospect stock back up a little bit. He’s struggled to throw strikes and seen his swing-and-miss numbers dip against upper minors hitters. Williamson combined for a 4.11 ERA in 122 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last year. He dropped off BA’s top 100, falling to tenth in the Cincinnati farm system in their estimation. The outlet suggested he looked more like a back-of-the-rotation type as his fastball velocity dipped into the lower 90s.
He’s had a tough beginning to the season in Louisville. Over eight starts, Williamson has allowed a 6.62 ERA in 34 innings. His 16.4% strikeout rate is the lowest of his professional career, while he’s still walking batters at an elevated 12.1% clip. He’s allowed just four runs in a combined 11 2/3 frames over his last two appearances, however. That’s enough for Cincinnati to give him a look at the back of a beleaguered major league rotation.
The Reds are expected to be without Nick Lodolo for a month due to a calf injury. They also recently designated struggling starter Luis Cessa for assignment, subtracting two members from their starting five. Hunter Greene, Graham Ashcraft and Luke Weaver are the only three pitchers with guaranteed rotation spots. Williamson should have a path to carving out a role if he performs well.
Cincinnati promoted another of its better prospects, middle infielder Matt McLain, for tonight’s game against the Rockies. Reds’ fans will get to see successive major league debuts on consecutive days as the front office starts to get looks at players it hopes can be pieces of a more competitive future. Cincinnati’s 18-22 start is enough to keep them within range of a weak NL Central thus far, but they’re not likely to hang in the divisional picture for a full season with their current rotation.