Nick Williams Scouting Report: Nick Williams ranked #7 on the LSB Community Prospect Rankings.
In the days leading up to Opening Day, I'm going to offer write-ups on the 31 players who made the Rangers' LSB Community Prospect Rankings Top 31. I've done this the last couple of years, and I don't want to re-invent the wheel, so some of this will be a repeat of what I've written before, particularly regarding draft history or performance pre-2013. Also, this is not based on my personal observations -- I'm not a scout, and haven't seen most of these guys. I'm just aggregating the numbers and what others say about these players.
So, with that out of the way, let's take a look at Nick Williams...
Nick Williams is a 6'3", 195 lb. lefthanded hitting outfielder out of Ball High School in Galveston, Texas, who was selected by the Rangers in the second round of the 2012 draft. Heading into the draft, Baseball America had Williams ranked #100 in their top 500 list, and John Sickels has Williams ranked #81 in his top 100 list. Frankie Piliere had Williams ranked #41 on his February, 2012, top 100 list. Keith Law did not include Williams in his top 100 prospect list. Sickels' community mock draft had Williams going in the 2nd round to Seattle.
BA praised Williams' bat speed and "raw strength," but in high school, Williams seemingly wasn't able to translate that into results at the plate, with BA dinging him for his inability to make contact or to recognize breaking pitches. BA also said of Williams before the draft that he "lacks instincts in all phases of the game," including poor route-running and below-average times to first base despite running a 6.5 60 yard dash.
So, why did the Rangers pick him in the second round? Williams has a bunch of tools -- he's not a five-tool guy, as he doesn't have a good arm, but the other four traditional tools all show potential. He's the type of player the Rangers may believe they can develop into a speedy, power-hitting centerfielder, much like they did with Cone.
Williams had a fairly successful 2012 professional debut, hitting .313/.375/.448 in 224 plate appearances in the Arizona Rookie League, although he was somewhat overshadowed by some of his more heralded teammates, and didn't crack the Baseball America top 20 prospect list for the AZL.
Williams and the other high-ceiling teens were sent to Hickory for the 2013 season, and of the Hickory teens, Nick Williams was the breakout star. Williams put up a .293/.337/.543 line in 404 plate appearances, with wacky 19/12/17 totals for doubles, triples and homers. While Williams has good speed, it didn't show up in his steal totals...he was 8 for 13 stealing bases. In addition, his K and walk rates were a little worrisome, as he struck out 110 times against just 15 walks for Hickory. Still, overall, it was a solid performance for a 19 year old in his first full season of pro ball.
Williams' season was enough to get notice, as Keith Law had him #8 on his Rangers top 10 prospect list, and Baseball America had Williams all the way up at #4 on their list. Jason Parks ranked Williams 6th in the Ranger system, and #88 on his top 100 list. BA also had Williams at #13 on their list of the Sally League top 20 prospects.
Williams' skill-set is pretty straight-forward...he doesn't have the arm for right field, and he likely doesn't have the range for center, so he's going to be a left fielder at the major league level. His value is going to be in his bat, and he's one of the best pure hitters the Rangers have in the minors, with Parks praising Williams' "innate bat-to-ball ability." And while Williams doesn't look like the type of player who will draw a ton of walks, he does have good raw power to go with his plus hit tool -- a homer every 24 plate appearances in the Sally League, as a 19 year old, is pretty impressive.
It remains to be seen what will happen to the Hickory teens in 2014 -- we heard last year that the Rangers would like to keep this group together, so while Williams is probably ready for high-A Myrtle Beach, he could possibly return to Hickory to start the season if the organization feels like they want to keep the gang together and have them give low-A another go. As far as the future goes, Williams could be pushing for a major league job by 2016, especially if he improves his pitch recognition and cuts down on the strikeouts, which are his biggest weakness right now.