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March 3, 2010 at 7:36 AM

2010 Prospect Previews: Adam Mills and Fabian Williamson

This installment of the series features two pitchers at different stages of their development, but both have the same goal in mind of continuing to prove themselves as starting pitchers within the Red Sox system in 2010.

Adam Mills

Position: Starting Pitcher
2009 Teams: Portland Sea Dogs/Pawtucket Red Sox
2010 Projected Team: Pawtucket Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 25

Strengths: Mills spent the 2009 season in the upper levels of the Red Sox system and continued to hold his own as a starting pitcher within the ranks. Featuring a well-rounded arsenal, he paints corners and changes speeds very effectively to keep hitters off-balance and guessing at the plate. Mills’s fastball, while not overpowering at 87-88 MPH, is his bread-and-butter offering. He’ll cut, sink, and occasionally reach back with the pitch, and demonstrates above-average command to consistently pound the lower portion of the strike zone. When Mills is on he creates a lot of ground balls off his fastball and keeps his infielders busy. He leans on his change-up to finish off hitters or get them out on their front foot to create weak contact. This stands as his best secondary offering, and he can hide the ball well with good arm action to play off his fastball, showing some dive and fade action with it. Mixing in a slider and curveball as well, Mills features all of his pitches in outings and throws all of his pitches in any count. He can generate some swings and misses with his low-80’s slider, especially with two strikes. Mills has been a consistent pitcher during his career in the Red Sox organization, and he has a calm demeanor that never seems to waiver regardless of the situation he is in.

Development Needs: Because of the nature of Mills’s pitching style and lack of plus velocity on his fastball, he relies mainly on batters putting the ball in play and gives up a lot of contact. His fastball is elevated more easily when it is up in the zone, and he can ill-afford to grab too much of the plate with it. He generally gives up a lot of hits and must continue to make batters earn their way on base, and show the outstanding control he has thus far into his career. While he has plus command of his entire arsenal, none of his pitches grade out as plus, and he doesn’t have that one pitch he can lean on to generate consistent swings and misses. However, Mills has shown at each level that he can get batters out for consistent stretches at a time. There have always been projections of Mills ultimately moving into a middle relief role. He’s done a good job of showing that he can be a starter all the way up to the highest level of minor league baseball, but a full season of Triple-A is going to challenge him to sustain his stuff multiple trips through the league as batters make adjustments on him. Mills is more of a finished product at 25 years of age, and it remains to be seen what type of role he can have on a team like the Boston Red Sox.

2010 Outlook: Mills has been invited to spring training as a non-roster player and will get a chance to work with the major league team. The Red Sox should get a good evaluation of him against top competition, and it will give him a chance to show what he can do in this situation. With a good camp, Mills can solidify himself as someone the team can possibly turn to for depth over the course of the 2010 season. He’ll head north with Pawtucket and pitch out of their rotation. Look for Mills to continue to demonstrate excellent control and command of his arsenal, while changing speeds and working to keep hitters off-balance. He’ll give up a lot of contact, but still should be able to limit the amount of solid contact he gives up if he keeps his fastball down consistently. Mills is another player who has risen through the Red Sox system, responded to the challenges presented to him, and now has a chance to prove he can contribute to a big league team in 2010 and beyond.

Fabian Williamson

Position: Starting Pitcher
2009 Team: Greenville Drive
2010 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 21

Strengths: New to the Red Sox system in 2009 after being acquired from Seattle for relief pitcher David Aardsma, Williamson spent last season pitching with Greenville. The lefty’s best pitch is a hard breaking curveball that shows excellent rotation and bite. He routinely freezes hitters with the offering and produces a lot of his strikeouts. Williamson comes from more of a ¾ arm slot with a deceptive delivery and hides the ball well, appearing to come out of his uniform at the last moment. He’s the type of pitcher that sneaks up on batters, and he gets a lot of late swings because of this. Williamson pulls the string with a solid-average change-up, has good arm action with it, and enough deception from his fastball to keep batters out in front of the pitch. He has good overall command of his arsenal and a nice feel for pitching. He finishes well out of his delivery to keep his pitches crisp and sharp. Williamson was able to limit the amount of solid contact against him in 2009 and kept the ball down for the majority of the season to make it tough to leave the ball park on him. He was able to go deeper and deeper into games as the season wore on while sustaining his stuff for multiple trips through the lineup.

Development Needs: On the lean side, Williamson could stand to fill out more, which can help him add some velocity on his fastball. Not on overpowering pitch that sits in the high-80’s, his fastball is about an average offering, and he needs some work on spotting the ball more consistently on the corners. While his deception helps him hide his fastball, in order to keep ascending through the ranks as a starting pitcher he’s going to need his fastball to be more reliable. Williamson can lose his delivery as he gets off-balance, and his control suffers because of this. He walked a few too many batters in 2009. Hitters weren’t making good contact on him with Greenville, but as he reaches upper levels batters are going to be much more disciplined on his curveball and will force him to throw his fastball for more strikes. Cleaning up his delivery and working on a consistent fastball release point are key needs going forward for him. Right now, Williamson has the look of a reliever down the line, but a strong progression with his stuff, centered on his fastball and change-up, can push that projection.

2010 Outlook: After being the swingman and piggy-backing a lot of starts in 2009, Williamson has an edge at earning a rotation slot with Salem after handling himself well in the South Atlantic League. His curveball will play well in High-A, and he will likely maintain his strikeout rate. Improvement on the velocity of his fastball and his control with the offering will be the big focus of 2010. If Williamson can get in a groove, pounding the lower portion of the strike zone and corners of the plate consistently, his deception with his secondary stuff will make him tough to make a lot of good contact on. Improved balance on the mound will be a good indication that strides are being made in this area. After coming in as a new player to the system in 2009, Williamson has edged his way into the arms mix in the low minors of the Red Sox chain. 2010 will be another season of polishing for him as he builds an arsenal that can push him towards the upper ranks.