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Thoughts on Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Taylor Widener

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Right-hander looking good in Double-A

Minor League Baseball: Tampa Yankees at Port St. Lucie Mets
Taylor Widener pitching for the Tampa Yankees in 2017
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

From the Minor League Ball mailbag:

Hi John,

Can you do a profile on Taylor Widener? Or have you done one already? If so where can I find it?

Thanks, Jose

Sure thing.

The last time we mentioned Taylor Widener was with the February update of the Arizona Diamondbacks Top 20 Prospects for 2018 list. At the time I had him as a Grade C+/B-, ranked ninth-overall in the system with this commentary:

9) Taylor Widener, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 23, 12th round pick in 2016 from University of South Carolina by the New York Yankees, traded to Arizona in three-way deal with Tampa Bay Rays; 3.39 ERA with 129/50 K/BB in 119 innings in High-A, just 87 hits; several injuries in college but held up in ’17, showing 90-96 fastball while making progress with slider and change-up; could use tighter command; was probably going to be a reliever if he stayed in New York but may have more of a chance to start for the Diamondbacks. ETA late 2019.

Fleshing that out a tad, Widener has had nothing but success in pro ball. The former South Carolina Gamecock posted a 0.47 ERA in 38 innings in his pro debut in 2016 with a stellar 59/7 K/BB. In 2017 the Yankees moved him into a starting role and as mentioned pre-season he was quite solid.

Traded to Arizona in the February 2018 Brandon Drury deal, Widener has taken another step forward this year for Double-A Jackson, posting a 2.53 ERA in 67.2 innings, with an 89/22 K/BB and a mere 47 hits allowed. Note the excellent K/IP ratio and low hit rate.

He is not a smoke-and-mirrors pitcher, getting his fastball into the mid-90s while mixing in his slider and change-up. The slider was rated as his best secondary pitch last year and, while still a bit inconsistent, draws praise. He’s run up some very high strikeout games this year including a 12-whiff performance in his last start on June 13th.

The change-up is still a work in progress but flashes well often enough to make me think he can remain a starter. He’s been deadly on right-handed hitters this year, holding them to a .164 average. Lefties have more luck at .239 and further refinement of the change-up would help with that.

Grade-wise, he’s done enough to move into the B- range at least with more possible as additional scouting and performance data comes in during the summer.

Not the best quality video here but it does show the movement on his stuff quite well:

This is pretty cool