Brandon Williamson is going to get the start for the Cincinnati Reds in their spring training opener this Saturday against the Cleveland Guardians, first reported by Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The game will be on Bally Sports Ohio at 3:05pm ET if you have some time to sit down in front of your television. The game will also be available on the radio – with this broadcast being on 700 WLW. You can see the entire spring training television and radio schedule here.

Charlie Goldsmith of the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote about Reds prospect Brandon Williamson this weekend, covering his new routine as well as some of what he is looking to improve upon after some struggles in 2022 in the minor leagues. One of the things that could help Williamson is the addition of a cut fastball.

When Cincinnati traded for Brandon Williamson last spring in the deal that sent Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker to the Seattle Mariners he was the top prospect in that deal and considered a Top 100 prospect in baseball. The lefty had shown good control in his career to that point, and had four average to better offerings with his fastball, curveball, change up, and slider. But in the 2022 season his stuff took a step backwards and his velocity was inconsistent from start to start. All told he walked 77 batters with 123 strikeouts in 122.2 innings while posting a 4.11 ERA in 27 starts between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville. That led to him dropping to #11 on the Cincinnati Reds prospect list.

Williamson, who turns 25 on April 2nd, picked up the cutter this offseason. It’s just going to give him another weapon to work with and to give hitters something else to think about in the box. But his fastball velocity is reportedly back up this spring, which is always a good thing to see.

If the lefty can return to form, throw strikes, and his velocity is back up, he could be a real candidate to make the rotation. He’s had experience in Triple-A, making 13 starts there – though the level of success was so-so at best – so the jump wouldn’t necessarily be a huge one for him. That’s one less start than Hunter Greene had in Louisville before he made the roster. It’s 10 more starts than Nick Lodolo had when he made the roster, too. Williamson will have to go out there and earn it, but unlike much of the other guys vying for a spot in the rotation, there’s real upside there for him if he can grab the job and run with it. With the Reds giving him the first start of the spring could this be their way of signaling that he is one of the favorites to pick up one of the spots?

34 Responses

  1. old-school

    The Goldsmith piece gave some good comments and insights from Williamson and he sounds like a more confident mature pitcher. “Last year was average to poor. I was trying to make guys miss. Now, let them hit it. If they miss, great. I have really good stuff ….and got to throw it in the zone. ”

    His FB in 2021 was elite and hes got a good change and slider. If he adds the cut FB for weak contact, Reds could have the big 4, and 2 from each side of the mound.

    • Klugo

      They hit it at GABP, they hit it in the Ohio River.

      • Bdh

        One thing Williamson was very good at last year was not giving up the long ball. I’m guessing off of memory but I think he was only giving up something like 0.7 HR/9 last year

      • Doc

        Bats’ stadium is pretty darn close to the Ohio River also.

    • DaveCT

      Two 6’6″ lefties … that’s a lot of extra long strides to the plate. Might be very, very uncomfortable for LH batters if both pitch in a three game series.

      • old-school

        I’ll be watching at 305 pm Saturday but my understanding is Williamson is more vertical with Lodolo being more Chris Sale horizontal. Could be a difficult adjustment game to game for opposing hitters going from Lodolo to Greene to Williamson to Ashcraft in the long term. From a rotation point of view, I enjoyed the change of pace pitch-efficient soft contact Overton last year who if healthy would really make opponents adjust game to game.

      • DaveCT

        Overton was fun to watch. You just have to root for guys like that

    • TJ

      Picking up Strickland and Sousa is such desperation…they need starters who can go deep or this season is going to go off the rails early like it did last year. Hopefully we do have the “big four” for the next five years and Cessa turns in an above average season!

  2. LDS

    At 25, it’s time to show up. And given the state of the Reds pitching, his timing couldn’t be better. Let’s hope he’s ready.

    • Melvin

      Yep. It’s not like he’s not needed.

    • Harry Stoner

      Kid missed 2020 altogether and has spent two seasons in MiLB.

      Retired Man is out of patience with him already.

      • LDS

        Retired Man? To which of us retired curmudgeons are you referring? As for me, my patience with the Reds ownership has been exhausted. They lied when they arrived and they’re lying still. And Phil makes Bob look like Steinbrenner.

  3. Rednat

    man no matter how down I am on the reds and management I always seem to get excited this time of year going into spring training. I literally think it is possible we lose 120 games this year, but darn it, I am excited for the season to start!

  4. Optimist

    For a soon to be 25 year old he really hasn’t pitched that much. Add in the old saw about tall lefties taking a little longer to put it all together and there’s no reason to rush this.

    Disregarding the ongoing stupidity of “service time” considerations, unless he’s simply lights-out dominant and different this spring, go ahead and give him 6 more starts with the Bats just for confirmation. Maybe he and Elly can be the mid-May callups. They certainly have the opportunity lined up.

    • DaveCT

      Completely agree. Unless he’s already mastered the cutter, it makes sense to start him at AAA and continue working on it.

  5. Optimist

    And just reread the original trade article you linked – reminds me to ask, any late word on Justin Dunn? Always injured, always potentially good stuff.

    • Bdh

      With the likelihood that Santillan and Antone are out to begin the season we could see both Weaver and Cessa in the bullpen with Williamson and Dunn grabbing the 4-5 spots in the rotation.

      AAA with Stoudt, Overton, Anderson, Lively, Abbott

      • DaveCT

        Dunn remains a long shot at this point to start. IMO. Sort of like the Nick Senzel of pitching.

      • Bdh

        That’s a funny comp. I think/hope he can pitch well enough to give at least 15 starts for Cincinnati this year

        Last year including minor league games Ashcraft threw 28 games, Greene threw 27 games, Lodolo threw 23 games, and Williamson threw 27 games. Best case in my opinion this season would be for those 4 to start at least 100 games for Cincinnati this season

        In that case breaking up the remaining 62 could go lots of ways. Maybe something like
        Weaver 15
        Dunn 15
        Cessa 10
        Overton/Stoudt/Anderson/Abbott/Lively/Phillips – 17

      • JayTheRed

        Don’t count out Overton. His minor league numbers are very respectable, and he did a great job at the MLB level before he got injured.

      • Optimist

        Dunn took a step back last year, and he’s only been good for 8-10 starts per year. This is likely his last year to show as a starter, and unless he’s already injured, or he’s just lost his stuff, he’s currently the 4th starter. If he can make it to June as such, they should be no worse than last season. If he’s better, they’re better.

        I expect by June they’ll be settling into the 5th-9th starter spots and looking for one of the MiLBers to break out. It’s really all about the 2024 rotation.

  6. Harry Stoner

    Glad to see Williamson getting the nod.

    It will be interesting if the reunion of long time pals Williamson and Lodolo has a positive effect on both Young Turks’ development.

    With the Diaz hermanos as a model of mutual communication, support, competition and critique hopefully there will be real benefits.

  7. Frankie Tomatoes

    Under no circumstances do I think this team is going to compete for the playoffs but I would be a liar if I wasn’t looking forward to watching games this spring. Hoping that some of the youngsters can step up and at least make things fun throughout the year.

  8. MK

    Might be time to see what Williamson can do in the big leagues regardless if he is or isn’t a finished product. Have to wonder if some of his problems last season were the result of a full season of another organizations philosophies. Maybe Mariners stresses some different approaches and it took an adjustment period

    Another subject: I see Solano signed a big league contract with Minnesota. Twins will have more ex-Reds than the Mariners.

    • Redsvol

      don’t look now MK, but the Brewers are trying to get into the race……just signed old friend Tyler Naquin to a minor league deal. I was king of pulling for Naquin to give us another shot but I guess we have enough left handed outfielders now.

  9. Fanman

    Exciting news! Rotation has the potential to be good and with more experience elite. Greene, Lodolo, Ashcraft, Williamson and Overton. Weaver and Cessa possibilities. Candidates help shore up bullpen if not included in rotation. Bullpen should be improved. Full season of Cruz. A healthy Sims. Hoping Farmer continues the way he finished last season. Concerned about LH relievers. Too bad Reds didn’t sign Aroldis Chapman for 3.5 mil.

  10. MBS

    I’d be really pumped if the 23 Williamson looked more like the 21 Williamson. If he can grab that 4th spot, that would just leave 1 more spot for Abbott, Phillips, and the rest to try to take in 24. Meanwhile Dunn when healthy is a good 5 for the Reds.

  11. Old Big Ed

    I’m not worried about Williamson’s age. Pitching is not a “reaction” skill like hitting is, and reaction times peak at about age 25. Pitching is instead a repetition skill like a golf swing. The aging curves for pitchers are not the same as for hitters. Jacob DeGrom’s rookie season was his age 26 season. Randy Johnson pitched in 4 games at age 24 and logged an ERA+ of 82 in his age 25 season. At age 27, he walked 6.8 hitters/9 IP. He didn’t become “Randy Johnson” until his age 29 season.

    I am not putting Williamson in the category of DeGrom or Johnson, but the point is that teams can and should be patient with pitchers.

  12. MK

    It has been said that Spring Training stats don’t matter, but that might not be the case this year. With the now three-way battle for 2nd lefty spot in bullpen, 5th spot in rotation and fifth spot in rotation. Should be fun to watch.

  13. Old-school

    Per C trent dunn is out awhile and may miss all of ST

    Senzel will start live bp soon and OD will be close

    With no cessa in camp and no dunn

    Overton and Williamson should get long looks