Williamson reflects upon trade to Reds, reunion with Lodolo

March 22nd, 2022

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Brandon Williamson went from not getting recruited as a Minnesota high schooler to catching scouts' attention at North Iowa Area CC to going to the Mariners in the second round of the 2019 Draft after transferring to Texas Christian. He established himself as one of baseball's best left-handed pitching prospects in 2021 and Seattle used him as the key piece in a trade to acquire Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez last week. We talked to him five days after he changed organizations and was reunited with fellow TCU left-hander Nick Lodolo.

Jim Callis: It feels a little bit strange to say Brandon Williamson of the Reds. You were Brandon Williamson of the Mariners a week ago. How much did that trade catch you by surprise? And how did you find out about it?

Brandon Williamson: It was a total shock. It was like "Moneyball," straight out of the movie. The Mariners GM and manager took me into the office and right when I sat down, they said, "Hey, we just traded you to the Cincinnati Reds." Just that quick.

Callis: I knew you knew Nick Lodolo because you pitched together at TCU, but I didn't realize you guys live together in the offseason. Did that make it a little easier having a friend with your new team ready to help you get acclimated?

Williamson: It's obviously tough leaving all my buddies at the Mariners. But Nick and I have been best friends for five years now since we met at TCU. We've lived together every offseason since we left college, so it's been easy. We do a ton together and we're best buds, so it's nice.

Callis: Does it help that you're both left-handed pitchers? Do you guys help diagnose each other if something's a little off or talk about pitch grips and other pitches? Does he have anything you wish you had and vice versa?

Williamson: We talk all the time. It's nice because we know each other really well. We know that we're very different pitchers. Even though we're both tall lefties, we really don't throw the same. But we know each other well enough that if something's off, we can go to each other to help out. He's helped me with my slider. I've helped him with a changeup, a curveball. It's a good relationship.

Callis: Kind of a week of firsts. First trade and then yesterday was your first appearance in a big league Spring Training game. What was that experience like?

Williamson: I thought I was going to be more nervous. I really wasn't. It was kind of nice that Nick was there, so that helps. I told him as I was running in he was running out, he didn't have to go six up, six down for me to follow. That was cool. It was fun. It's still just can you make good pitches?

Callis: I first heard about you when you were at North Iowa Area Community College and the scouts were telling me that you were in Minnesota as a high school kid, you threw in the low 80s and weren't really on the scouting radar that much. When did you have that uptick in velocity? And when do you start to think, hey, I might have a shot at pro ball?

Williamson: Out of high school I went to NIACC and I was throwing low 80s, like you said. I just devoted to baseball, I put on about 30 pounds, I started moving better. And got some good coaching and just started throwing harder and harder and harder. Starting my sophomore year of college, I kind of realized I could maybe have a shot. I started to throw low 90s and a decent slider.

Callis: When you went to NIACC were you thinking of a pro career? Did it seem realistic?

Williamson: I wanted a scholarship and I wanted to get college paid for. Then it molded into, "Hey, I could maybe do this for a living." We just went from there.

Callis: You're a four-pitch guy. How would you rank your pitches from best to need the most work?

Williamson: If you were watching yesterday, you probably wouldn't think this, but I think my heater is probably my best pitch. I couldn't throw it for a strike or throw it in the ocean yesterday, but it's got probably the best analytics. It's got a lot of ride to it and I love throwing it. Then I'd say probably my curveball, slider, changeup.

Callis: Was your slider better than your curve in college? I thought when we were doing draft reports that guys liked the slider more than the curve. Now it seems like people are saying plus curveball.

Williamson: I didn't really throw the curveball much in college. I would play catch with it. There's a couple of times I threw in games and it'd just get banged or I wouldn't throw it for a strike. So we're just like, sliders for a strike, that's good enough, so let's just throw a slider. Then once I got to the Mariners, we were in Everett, short-season, and our coach is like, 'Hey, why don't you try a curveball? You got a high arm slot and let's see if you can get the spin on it, see if you get a downer." I started throwing good ones and just loved it.

Callis: Everybody always wants prospect comparisons to big leaguers. What's your favorite comparison you've heard where somebody compared you to someone?

Williamson: My favorite guy to watch is Cole Hamels. Now he's obviously a little different than I am. I like Max Fried and Blake Snell. I'd say those are my favorite lefties to watch, but Cole Hamels is kind of who I model after. I try and do a lot of similar things.

Callis: It would be pretty nice to have his changeup.

Williamson: It would be pretty nice to have all of his stuff. But I'd say Max Fried probably, the curveball/fastball similarities. Snell too, he throws a little harder but similar. He has a real high arm slot.