- Rating: 3.98
- 2022 stats: 14 G, 17.1 IP, 3.63 ERA, 4.38 FIP, 1.558 WHIP, 2.80 SO/BB, 113 ERA+
- Date of birth: October 24, 1994 (28 years old)
- 2022 earnings: $161,532 (via Spotrac) - prorated league minimum
- 2023 status: On 40-man roster, Pre-Arb eligible, 2 MiLB options remaining.
It was a wild three-team-trade the Diamondbacks took part in in February 2018 and each and every player involved has had trouble in making an impact. While Steven Souza Jr. has recently retired and Brandon Drury didn’t have something to cheer about until last season, the prospects Sam McWilliams (stuck in AA), Nick Solak, Colin Poche and Taylor Widener are all struggling to find success in the MLB.
Taylor Widener started well in Arizona after that 2018 trade, dominating Double A as a starter with the Jackson Generals and earning All-Star honours. That was soon forgotten as in 2019 his peripherals went into the abyss and horror was spelled upon him with the letters P, C and L.
He was saved from Triple A doom in 2020 and joined the MLB team in the COVID-shortened season to pitch 20 innings in relief. Like Wesley Baier wrote, it wasn’t the best debut for Widener, who had command troubles but also saw his fastball getting crushed when hitters caught up with it.
“I’m scared of his fastball’s movement profile.” - Eric Longenhagen in his 2021 Diamondbacks’ prospect review of Taylor Widener
In 2021 Widener was the spinning ball on the roulette of the Diamondbacks casino, sometimes ending in the rotation pocket or the bullpen one, which certainly didn’t help in achieving some sustainable success, as Michael McDermott wrote. Statcast wasn’t kind to the right-hander, although a persistent groin injury, which kept him out of business for over 2 months too, was probably of influence in what ended up being a lost season for both Widener and the Diamondbacks.
In Spring Training 2022 Widener was optioned to Reno on April 2 and thus a late drop from the active roster. That was just his first MiLB option being used after hanging on for two entire years on the major league roster.
The Diamondbacks certainly took it easy with Widener to start the season. He pitched just two innings in Spring Training and 3 games in Reno, although all in long relief, before being called up to the big league roster on April 24, when Castellanos hit the paternity list.
He made his season debut in a game against the Mets and let an inherited runner score on a wild pitch and gave up a homerun in the next inning. That pretty much summed up his weak spots we had been discussing until then: the slugging on his pitches and the wild control from time to time. His next outing against the Cardinals was scoreless, but he had heavy work with two hits and a base on balls. His third outing was once again troublesome: he gave up two doubles and a run and had to be bailed out by Kyle Nelson (but somehow still got a hold).
After those 3 outings the Diamondbacks optioned him back to Reno, where he pitched in long relief and normally on 5 days of rest during the month of May. At the beginning of June he was requested to take the field in the majors again, in an outing against the Reds. He pitched a fine 6th, getting 3 quick outs but followed it up with a disastrous 7th inning in which he gave up 3 runs until the rain set in and the game was cut short with an out and a runner at first left.
After that game Widener continued to work on his pitching in AAA. In general, he was fine, but the oscillating trend of multiple scoreless games and then one with multiple runs continued.
On September 9 he was recalled for the third time this season as a replacement for Tommy Henry and got some good results, pitching to a 0.84 ERA in 8 outings. All games he pitched in were losses and all the situations he pitched in were low-leverage, so there are some notes to be made on the good results. But he pitched in much shorter outings and on just a few days of rest, which might have contributed to some succces.
However, in each game but one, he would allow at least one baserunner through a hit or a base on balls. Add to that the always lingering possibility of a hard-hit pitch and the threat of giving up a run (or two) was as real as a Russian missile hitting a civilian dwelling.
Except for the Arabs we drink our milk when it isn’t salty, so Widener faltered when he found himself for the first time in a high-leverage situation again, with an opponent focused on taking advantage of a wrong pitch. On October 2 Widener failed to get an out in an extra innings game against the Giants and gave up 2 runs on 2 hits and a base-on-balls. He was tagged with a blown save and the loss, ending his season somewhat with some salty milk.
There were certainly some positive notes on Widener’s 2022 season. First of all he showed a much better command of his pitches, his S% was good and his secondary pitches were fine, although the slider was hit hard and his weakest valued pitch, but bad luck seems to have played a role there.
Although that bad luck might also be the result of his pitches getting chased a lot, while batters also make much more contact on his pitches than in the previous seasons. That is probably the result of his weak fastball. The velocity on it is fine and even the spin rate isn’t bad, but the fastball apparently is rather flat, which provokes joy to the eyes of the batter.
That’s a problem for Taylor Widener, who throws his fastball in 67.8% of his pitches, similar to the previous years, and it led to an increase in (solid) contact and line drives, although the increase in speed might have offset the flyball and homerun rates a bit.
This is all while looking back at a short sample size of course, but we shouldn’t focus on the sample size itself but more on the trend we are seeing these years.
The Taylor Widener we have seen these years isn’t a guy the Diamondbacks can deploy in a high-leverage situation, because he allows far too many batters to reach base for that. That doesn’t leave much room for anything else than middle or long-relief. While the Diamondbacks have used him in long-relief outings that didn’t always ended well, the glimpse we saw in September might indicate that he is a better candidate for middle relief and in short outings on a few days of rest.
It would be interesting to see if the Diamondbacks are willing to commit to that come April 2023.