Mason Williams: Is It Time To Label Him A Bust For The Yankees?
Mason Williams began the 2013 season as the number one prospect in the Yankees system and one of the top ranked outfielders in minor league baseball. He then struggled in High-A before being arrested for driving under the influence. As questions about his makeup arose, Williams continued to sputter until a late season surge quieted doubters. Williams’ .288/.328/.384 second half was enough for the Yankees to promote him to Double-A to end the year. The former top-100 prospect has struggled to adjust since.
Williams was clearly over matched during his 2013 Double-A stint, posting a .153/.164/.264 triple slash line with an 18/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 72 at bats. When he began 2014 by hitting .223/.292/.311 peripherals pointed to bad luck as his BB:K ratio was a solid 10:15. Things haven’t improved though as Williams has continued to maintain a solid BB:K ratio while posting a horrid triple slash line. Is Williams simply making weak contact time-and-time again?
Williams’ speed has always been his calling card. Reported to be plus-plus, it also fuels a strong defensive projection. However, Williams has started several games in right field since Jake Cave’s promotion to Double-A Trenton. Cave starting in center field points to his passing Williams on the organizational depth chart.
In right, Williams badly misplayed a fly ball off the bat of David Adams into a triple in the opening inning of Saturday’s game against the Bowie Baysox. After Adams made contact, Williams turned around and jogged to his left, heading towards left-center. At the last moment, he realized he had traveled too far and attempted to reverse course and make the play over his right shoulder. He came up empty. Maybe being unfamiliar with right field cause him to misread the ball’s flight patch, but Williams may have had time to recover had he sprinted to the spot.
Williams’ inconsistent effort was also visible at the plate. He grounded out to first base in his first at bat of the series while going from home to first in 4.04 seconds. The quality of his at bats and his interest in running hard out of the box would both decline from there. In his third at bat on Friday, Williams was late on a 90-mph fastball and grounded out softly to the shortstop. Instead of putting his head down and attempting to beat out a hit, Williams paused after contact to confirm where the ball was going before deeming the play worthy of his effort. In the fourth inning on Saturday, Williams grounded out to second base on what could have been an infield hit. Williams took 4.4 seconds from home-to-first because the left-handed hitter stopped running when he thought the second baseman would make the play. The second baseman bobbled the ball and Williams’ last ditch effort to beat out the play fell short.
Since Mike Newman scouted Mason Williams in 2012 in the midst of a breakout year for the Charleston Riverdogs, the former top-100 prospect has closed his stance a bit and added a toe tap to his swing. When hitters with toe taps struggle, issues are often related to timing and result in increased strikeout rates. However, Williams has strong enough contact ability for strikeouts to not be an issue. Instead, weakly batted balls have done Williams in and he spent the series struggling to catch up to average velocity fastballs.
When Brian Cashman harps on Williams having “a lot of athletic ability” and still needing to “[grow] in the right direction” he is, nicely, referring to the inconsistent effort Williams displayed in the field and at the plate. Unfortunately for Mason Williams, he just turned 23 so time is running out for the outfielder. 2015 will be his make-or-break year.
Owning Mason Williams
In disappointing many fantasy baseball owners, the Yankees prospect has gone from threat to bust. In deep dynasty leagues, he’ll remain on rosters in the hope of a rebound, but it’s difficult to bet on a prospect who has been this bad in Double-A to flip the switch and figure it out. Using the 22-24-26 rule, Mason Williams projects to make his debut at 25 or later given his struggles. At best, this affords him a fringe regular/bench projection at the Major League Level. Dealing for the outfielder as a buy low candidate is ill-advised. As Williams has filled out, he’s become less athletic and less enticing because of it. Pass and move onto other players. – Mike Newman
25 Aug 2014 / Fabian McNally / 3
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