Pittsburgh Pirates Re-Sign Catcher Jackson Williams, Add RHP John Stilson on Minor League Deal

Pirates Prospects has learned that the Pittsburgh Pirates re-signed catcher Jackson Williams to a minor league deal on Tuesday and also signed minor league free agent pitcher John Stilson.

Williams split 2017 between Indianapolis and Altoona, hitting .201/.276/.249 in 55 total games. He has two brief stints in the majors, seeing time with the San Francisco Giants in 2015 and the Colorado Rockies in 2014. The 31-year-old Williams is better known for his defense, especially the last three seasons, where he has topped out at a .591 OPS. He threw out 32% of runners in 2017 and has thrown out 36% of runners in 11 seasons in the pros.

While he isn’t as good as Jacob Stallings in the glove department, his defense makes him a depth option at backup short-term in the majors if the need should arise. He will likely fill the same role he had in 2017, splitting time between Indianapolis and Altoona. Jin-De Jhang is currently getting his elbow checked out for an injury that caused him to leave winter ball in Australia, so that could affect where Williams plays.

Stilson spent most of 2017 in Triple-A for Buffalo (Blue Jays) where he had a 3.14 ERA in 34 relief appearances, posting a 1.25 WHIP, with 46 strikeouts and a .224 BAA in 48.2 innings. The 27-year-old right-hander does not have any Major League experience. He was a third round draft pick in 2011 and was rated as the seventh best prospect for the Blue Jays in 2012. He had a torn labrum in 2014 and missed all but one game in 2015. Before the injury, he sat mid-90s with his fastball and matched it with a changeup and slider that were both plus offerings, though he didn’t have the best command. He should take a spot with Indianapolis in the bullpen, although the Pirates seem to be crowded at the upper levels with pitching options.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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John: Am I correct in thinking the $500K the Pirates used to trade for Nick Burdi does not cost the Pirates anything other than pool money which is just sort of an option to spend that much. The Pirates are very deliberate in how they approach TJ Rehab – he may not even throw bullpens until Jul 2018, then 30 days of rehab in the minors. Then the Pirates can use half of Aug and all of Sep to get him at least 45 days on the roster in 2018 and then they have to keep him 45 days more on the roster in 2019 to fulfill the commitment of Rule 5?

If so, a pretty smart move overall. Could have just signed a future Closer for pocket change.


Thank you – very well played by NH. The Pirates feel no pressure to use him or put pressure on others if he is not used, and Burdi gets the best possible circumstance to rehab thoroughly.

dr dng

Didn’t Kevin Costner play in him Bull Durham?


Never hurts to have catching depth. Do you think it’s coincidence though that they signed Williams after the Jhang news came out?

Blaine Huff

Definitely hoping it’s unrelated.

Nothing special about Jhang, but I’ve always liked him and have been pulling for him to make it.

At almost 25 and still not mastering AA, I’ve gotta think an extended recovery time pretty much closes the door on him.

Scott K

Is it feared Jhang will need surgery on his elbow and miss a good portion of season?


With the situation as we knew it before the injury to Jhang, why did we not take a flyer on one of the Atlanta Group, Catcher Abrahan Gutierrez. He hit OK, and had some VG defensive numbers in the GCL – only 3 E’s/3 PB’s and a 38%CS. Not an upper minors guy, but he signed for only $650,000 after getting over $3 mil from Atlanta in 2016.


I liked the work of the Catchers in the DSL, but I thought Brito left a lot to be desired at the GCL level. I saw Gutierrez as a kid who will move fast and possibly skip a level or two along the way. Good chance we will leave a lot on the table of our 2017 Intl Pool

Brian Bernard

So the Orioles are committed to trading Machado for two MLB ready starting pitchers that can be controlled 4-5 years.
The pirates may be one of the few teams able to fill that request and they have a history of dealing with the O’s.
1. Trevor Williams and Ivan Nova. Fits the bill not sexy.
2. Gerrit Cole and Trevor Williams. Fits the bill sexy and easy sell for O’s – not great for bucs long term.
3. Trevor Williams Steven Brault/ Nick Kingham.

Sexy enough and we have the depth and it would be worth the play. Plus if needed flip Machado at trade deadline to contender for more prospects.
Do it!


Machado is only under contract for 2018. He would be a 1 year rental. haha I would still buy his jersey.


Terrific acquisition if it can be done, particularly by routes 1 or 3.


Or the Bucs simply could have drafted him out of HS when they had the chance.


As a Pirate fan for the past 50+ years and an Oriole Season Ticket holder, I have been considering the same sort of thought that you have had. The Pirates can afford it player wise and financially, and if the Pirates have a dud of a year, he can be traded in July. Machado is the most complete player that I have watched up close and personal since Clemente. Go for it!


And let the World Series bound comments commence!


Christmas come early!! How’s that!!!

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