Phillies Post-2016 Top 30 Prospect Rankings: No. 1-No. 5
By John Town
No. 4: Outfielder Nick Williams
Nick Williams is the only player from the Cole Hamels trade who has yet to make their major-league debut. After a strong 2015 in which Williams hit for a .300/.347/.490 line in Double-A, fans hoped to see more of the same from Williams in Triple-A before he eventually joined the major-league roster.
However, Williams had a disappointing year at the plate with Lehigh Valley. In 125 games with the IronPigs, Williams had a .714 OPS mostly fueled by his .427 slugging percentage. Meanwhile, he struggled to get on base with a .287 OBP.
In 2015, Williams made strides with his plate discipline. Known for tendency to swing and anything near the plate, Williams struck out 27% of the time in his minor-league career through the 2014 season. He lowered that clip significantly in 2015 with a 19.5% strikeout rate. In addition, Williams walked at a 6.3% rate, which was well above his career rate prior to 2015.
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After his promotion to Triple-A this season, Williams struggled with the new crop of pitchers. He walked just 3.6% of the time while striking out in 25.8% of his plate appearances. Williams’s discipline completely fell apart once July rolled around, as he walked just twice in 242 plate appearances after July 1.
Williams’s poor play soured his relationship with Triple-A manager Dave Brundage.
Brundage benched Williams on multiple occasions for lack of hustle. Brundage said the benching was about “teaching him [Williams] how to play the game right” and that it was “all part of the development with Nick.” The Phillies did fire Brundage after the season, so Williams won’t have to deal with him next season.
Williams’s calling card is his bat, which as a whole is above-average. J.J. Cooper of Baseball America said Williams’s “hands are among the best in the minors” and that “Scouts have long praised his bat speed and the looseness of his swing.” He uses them to tap into his plus raw power, but his advanced hitting ability makes him careless with his plate discipline. Williams will need to find a way to blend the two if he wants to reach his full potential.
Defensively, Williams has the speed to track down most fly balls that comes his way. While this would usually make a player a definite center fielder, his poor routes and jumps force him to use his athleticism to make up for it. That will only last so long, and with a fringey arm, Williams seems destined for left.
The hope was that Williams could make it to the major-leauges at some point in 2016, but his poor season didn’t justify a September call-up. With Williams likely joining the 40-man roster this offseason, he could easily reach the major-leagues next season with a strong start in Triple-A.