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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Expectations surround Williams

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Florissant, Mo., right-hander Devin Williams sat on a bench adjacent to the main cage inside Perfect Game’s indoor facility Saturday (Feb. 11) afternoon, and glanced at the more than two dozen professional scouts pointing radar guns through the netting behind home plate.

Williams was here for the 2012 Perfect Game Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase, an event designed to give the professional scouting community an opportunity to get a wintertime look at many of the top pitching and catching prospects from across the Midwest.

Just about 80 prospects were expected to attend the two-day event (Sat.-Sun., Feb. 11-12) with a singular expectation in mind. Like Williams, their expectations were met.

“I hope to get in front of a lot of pro scouts and judging by the looks of things it looks like I’m going to do that,” Williams said with a wide smile, while also implying that even as a 17-year-old, he’s already grown unfazed by the scouts’ scrutiny. “I’ve been pitching in front of scouts for awhile now so I’m pretty used to it.”

Williams is a junior at Hazelwood West High School in Florissant, a second-ring suburb of St. Louis. He came into the Pitcher/Catcher Indoor ranked as the nation’s 306th top overall prospect in the class of 2013 (No. 2 in Missouri and No. 84 at his position) and only improved his stock.

After his workout, in which his fastball sat between 87-89 mph and touched 90, a PG scout/blogger wrote:

“Lean and loose are the first two words that come to mind when taking a look at Devin Williams. … He has very good tempo in his delivery and loose, easy arm action. The ball comes out well and shows some late life. … It is easy to dream on Williams adding 4-5 ticks to his fastball as his body fills and matures.”

PG officials wasted little time in extending to Williams an invitation to attend this year’s Perfect Game National Showcase June 14-18 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

“He was one of the big surprises (on Saturday). He pitched his way into a National invitation,” PG National Director of Scouting David Rawnsley said Sunday. “He’s one of those guys who had topped out at 88, but (Saturday) he came out, and he’s one of these guys that you look at him and right away he just gets your attention. He’s 6-3, 165 (pounds) and he’s got that prototypical, projectable (17)-year-old pitcher’s body that could end up 6-4, 190 in a few years.”

In his notes, Rawnsley described Williams has having “a very long, slender Dominican-type build.”

“He is still raw in his breaking ball,” Rawnsley said. “He showed his youth in how he approached his breaking ball … but that’s not unusual at all.”

Before his appearance here on Saturday, Williams had competed in three PG WWBA tournaments – including the 2011 WWBA Underclass World Championship – all with the St. Louis Pirates. He said he’s enjoyed playing with the Pirates on at least two different fronts.

“They have a great coaching staff for pitchers and they’ve really helped me a lot,” Williams said, adding that he also likes to be surrounded by other top prospects. “I pick up little things watching other players. Just the little things they do, like the way they finish a pitch or something. I can use that towards my game.”

Perfect Game has helped put Williams in front of the right people. He has, for instance, already committed to the University of Missouri, which will be playing in the powerhouse Southeastern Conference by the time Williams reaches the Columbia campus.

“They’ve definitely helped me get a lot of exposure,” Williams said of PG. “I first started talking to Missouri because of my Perfect Game (experiences).”

Williams said he chose Missouri because of the coaching staff led by head coach Tim Jamieson and pitching coach Matt Hobbs. And Williams has done some background work on the staff.

“They’ve got a real good history with pitchers,” he said. “They’ve had (a few) first round picks in the last couple of years, so hopefully one day that will be me.”

Williams was referring to former Missouri Tigers and first round right-handers Max Scherzer (Diamondbacks, 2006), Aaron Crow (Nationals ’08, Royals ’09) and Kyle Gibson (Twins, ’09).

Williams still has two more years of high school baseball in front of him before he has to concern himself with either college baseball or the MLB amateur draft. He already knows what he wants to accomplish this spring.

“I made a goal list and one of the things on there is to go undefeated and have below a 1.5 ERA,” Williams said. “So I guess I have some pretty high expectations.”

High expectations, indeed.

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