Updated: Dec 16, 2018
Prospect #17: OF, Justin Williams
Acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in the Tommy Pham deal
WHY TO GET EXCITED
There is a lot of raw, undeveloped skill here. The Cardinals will have to do some unlocking, but Williams has a fresh base to be unlocked.
While his strikeout totals are a little high this season, he's coming off of a season in which his K-Rate was 16.9% and a walk rate that was 9%. This season has been a bit deflating for him, but he has shown signs in the past of being a very good hitter.
Many believe that Williams power will increase with a swing change. Of course, none of that is in play or has manifested yet, but it's something worth keeping an eye on. He reminds a lot of Pirates first baseman Josh Bell in that he the raw power is there with a very good hitting approach, but the power needs to come to make an impact. It happened with Bell, hopefully it'll happen with Williams.
People are always complaining about the Cardinals' pursuit of pitching and outfielders, but I love that the Cardinals added another outfielder to the organization. It's just another position to trade from. It's just another position with a high chance of failure. Williams helps to narrow those odds.
When Williams is "on", his swing is quick and fast and straight through the ball. His bat is quick enough to get to the fastball up in the zone.
There are two other things about his approach that I love and they expose me for the little league coach that I am. Williams always watches the ball into the mitt while at the plate if he isn't swinging. Second, I love how opened up he is at the plate. I think that it causes his head to bobble a little bit and that needs to be cleaned up, but the open stance is perfect for his swing.
Now that he's in the Cardinals system, changes are sure to come to his hitting mechanics. I firmly believe that he'll look more like the 2017 version of himself with a few tweaks and adjustments inn his swing and approach.
WHY TO BE CAUTIOUS
All indications are that Williams isn't a very average fielder. I haven't seen much of him out there, but every report that I've read says pretty much the same thing; he's average, at best.
For being big and strong and athletic, Williams is a laborious runner. He isn't very quick and he kind of chugs along when he's in high gear.
The groundballs are the major issue with his hitting profile. He needs to get the ball in the air more. It's the only way that his bat will ever be able to play in the majors. I'm not just talking about home runs, either. Putting the ball in the air will lead to slug and that's where he needs the increase. Otherwise, he's a corner sub with fourth outfielder as a ceiling.
This year has been a real downer for him. All of his stats and his rates are way down. He looks uncomfortable at the plate. Actually, from what I've watched this season, a lot of his at-bats and swings remind me of Jason Heyward when he is struggling.
Without doing the groundwork, and this might be way off, I feel like the Rays never trade away position players that boom in another organization. They are an organization that needs to hold on to every cheap and controllable talent with major league potential as possible.
Finally, it's hard to get any feel for Williams until we see what it looks like at the end of the season in the Cardinals organization. You don't make a trade for a player like Williams unless you are planning on tweaking him a bit. We'll have to wait and see what it looks like after the tweaks.
There are a lot of people that are throwing around the Nick Williams comparison for Justin Williams. I could see that. It makes a lot of sense. However, until he starts to put more lift on the ball a comparison doesn't really matter. It was encouraging to see him hit a jack in his first start in the system, and that really needs to keep up. In my mind, Williams is a perfect replacement for Oscar Mercado in the organization. Some offensive mesh of Josh Bell and Jason Heyward seems like a nice, ultimate, 5% chance-ceiling.
Thanks to Fangraphs for the stats.
Thanks For Reading!!