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Will Sam McWilliams have a major league role in 2021?

Signed to a major league contract, there’s no guarantee that he actually pitches for the Mets in 2021.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays-Workouts
Sam McWilliams
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A dominant pitcher at Beech High, a high school in Hendersonville, Tennessee, Sam McWilliams was drafted by Philadelphia Phillies in the 8th round of the 2014 MLB Draft. The tall right-hander signed for a $200,000 bonus, roughly $39,000 over the MLB-assigned slot value, and began his career as a professional. Though 25 years old today, McWilliams has pitched for a variety of organizations, having been traded from Philadelphia to Arizona in 2015, from Arizona to Tampa Bay in 2018, getting selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 2018 Rule 5 Draft, and then being returned to Tampa in 2019. In November 2020, the Mets beat out as many as 15 other teams, according to reports, and signed the right-hander to a major league contract worth $750,000 despite never having pitched above Triple-A.

A big, athletic guy standing 6’7” and weighing 230 pounds, the Mets were impressed by his size and pitching repertoire. Throwing from a three-quarters arm slot with a loose and easy delivery that features a simple leg lift and long action through the back, McWilliams has a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid-90s and features generous sink, thanks to the downhill plane he pitches from, and arm-side life. He complements his heater primarily with a mid-80s slider that features a high spin rate that he can command and throw for strikes or out of the zone. The right-hander also occasionally sprinkles in a truer curveball and changeup, but both lack the bite of the slider, though the changeup has improved since switching from a circle change grip to a split-change grip.

Sam McWilliams was the very first player to be signed to a major league contract by the Steve Cohen-era Mets, but he’s unlikely to see much, if any, major league playing time in 2021. The flurry of trades and signings that the Mets made since signing him have pushed him further and further down the depth chart. A transition to the bullpen remains a possibility, as his two-pitch mix would play up in limited bursts and would minimize his lack of an effective third pitch, but the most likely scenario at the start of the 2021 season sees McWilliams as a member of the Triple-A Syracuse Mets’ starting rotation.