The Arizona Diamondbacks made a trade last week with the Yankees and Rays for Steven Souza Jr. and pitching prospect Taylor Widener for Brandon Drury and Anthony Banda. The deal has two players to be named later that have yet to be announced yet.
Souza Jr. is the main part of the package coming to the D-Backs, but Taylor Widener is a great swap for Anthony Banda. Widener is only 6’0″, 195 pounds, but he brings the heat. After getting drafted in the 12th round in 2016, he saw his fastball velocity go up a tick to 93-97 mph. His coaches and teammates praise him for his cutting action and command with his fastball. Former teammate, Kyle Holder, described him as having “a combination of crafty and power”.
With the Yankees, he went through short-season and A ball in his first summer. He only started two games in 13 appearances, but he also only gave up two runs in 38.1 innings in a shortened summer because he just got drafted. His strikeout numbers were great at a 14.67 K/9 in short season A and 13.3 K/9 in A ball. That’s 59 strikeouts in 38.1 innings with only 7 walks as well. Hitters hit just .135 off of him, and his WHIP was 0.63 in his first professional summer.
While with the Charleston RiverDogs, he was part of a combined no-hitter in the semifinals of the playoffs in the South Atlantic League. He closed the game out, and his low fastball location along with a sharp slider helped lead to a strikeout that ended the game.
Widener was a reliever and starter in college as he had 9 saves his sophomore year, but he had none his junior year. After the first summer with the Yankees, they wanted to further develop Widener who really was just a fastball and slider guy that summer and in college.
This led to him getting moved in the starting rotation of the Tampa Tarpons in High-A last summer. He started to throw a changeup that developed very well, and it led to him proving himself with hitters hit just .209 off of him in 27 starts. In 119.1 innings, his strikeout numbers continued to impress with a K/9 rate of 9.73 with 128 strikeouts.
While Widener saw improved velocity, better shape on his slider, and the development of a changeup, his walk rate spiked up in 2017 with a 3.77 BB/9.
As of right now, the D-Backs website has Widener on the Reno Aces (AAA) roster, but I would assume that he will start in Double-A. At 23 years old, he was added as a non-roster invitee for spring training, and he has already thrown an inning. On February 27th, he came in the 6th inning, and he let up a single and walk but no runs crossed the plate.
Widener comes in as the 4th ranked prospect in the D-Backs system with the newly updated rankings from MLBPipeline.com. Anthony Banda was probably going to be in that 4-6 range behind Jon Duplantier, Pavin Smith, and Jasrado Chisholm. Banda might be MLB ready, but the D-Backs traded from spots of great depth at starting pitching and in the infield.
Widener will be given every chance to start the next two summers. If he doesn’t figure it out or the walk rate doesn’t improve, he can still be a valuable piece in the bullpen. He personally reminds me of Jimmie Sherfy but with the potential to be in the major league rotation. Both are undersized a bit at 6’0″ with a lot of effort in their motions. D-Backs fans should be excited to have him as the second piece in the Souza trade.