By Jared Lankes
Pirates right-hander Trevor Williams pitched his best spring training outing recently, collecting five super strong innings of work to continue his awesome spring. Williams sits in a position where he still has a chance to make the Opening Day rotation and head north with the big club as it has not been decided, at least publicly, who the fifth starter will be for the Pirates. Because of all this, one has to wonder if Trevor Williams even stands a slim chance of earning that final rotation spot.
The rotation battle features three other pitchers hopeful to head to Fenway to start their regular season; these other pitchers being Drew Hutchison, Steven Brault, and top-of-the-line prospect Tyler Glasnow. This is harsh competition considering that many see Trevor Williams as the fourth option out of the litter. However, none of these guys have really seized the opportunity this spring quite like Trevor Williams. While spring training stats are meaningless, the performances and work ethic shown can be an indicator of who has rightfully went out there and took hold of the opportunity they’ve been gifted. Right now, if all things were equal, Williams would be the clear front-runner for the spot.
But it’s not all created equal. Williams has the odds stacked heavily against him based on pure circumstance. Firstly, Drew Hutchison is getting paid relatively good money, and the Pirates may not want that money being wasted on a guy that’s sitting in AAA. Next, Brault brings something that the Pirates do not have in the rotation, and that is being a lefty. Based on being a lefty alone, Brault stands a chance of being in the rotation. Then there’s Glasnow. While unpolished, Glasnow is a premium prospect and would easily give the Pirates the most upside out of the bunch, even if he would need to take his lumps and bruises along the way. So that leaves Trevor Williams with nothing really that differentiates himself from the others.
In turn, the main question becomes whether the Pirates will base this decision on spring performance or circumstance. In my estimation, I think circumstance will play out majorly here as spring training performance may be taken simply at face value. While Trevor Williams has had a very strong spring training, I do not think that’s enough for him to overcome all the obstacles he would need to get over to make the Opening Day rotation.