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Nick Williams Scouting Report

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Taking a look at Nick Williams, the #6 prospect in the LSB Offseason Community Prospect Rankings

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Williams Scouting Report: Nick Williams ranked #6 on the LSB Community Prospect Rankings.

In the days leading up to Opening Day, I'm going to offer write-ups on the 30 players who made the Rangers' LSB Community Prospect Rankings Top 32 list, and who didn't get traded. 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-2014. 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 landed at the #7 spot in the LSB community offseason rankings last season.

2014 saw Williams promoted to high-A Myrtle Beach, where he performed very similarly to how he hit in 2013 -- a .292/.343/.491 slash line, 117 Ks in 408 plate appearances against just 19 walks, and a mediocre 5 for 12 rate stealing bases.  Williams got a late-season promotion to AA Frisco and struggled there, going .226/.250/.290 in 64 plate appearances.  Williams ended up in the #11 spot in the Baseball America Carolina League rankings, with opposing managers praising his hit tool.

Williams is a tough player to figure out -- he has a transcendent hit tool, and he's got speed and power, but he also has huge holes in his game, and there has been talk that makeup issues are going to limit how much he will get out of his ability.  Defensively, he's probably going to be limited to left field, although he's gotten some work in center, and as a left fielder, he's going to have to hit a lot to have value.  His approach is a huge concern, and there's little indication that it is something that is going to improve.  In full-season ball, Williams has 248 Ks in 876 plate appearances, versus just 34 unintentional walks.  For a guy who doesn't have big-time power or offer much in the way of defense, its incredibly difficult to hit for enough average to make up for that sort of K and walk rate.

Williams will likely start the 2015 season in Frisco, and figures to spend the entire year there, though a late-season promotion to AAA is possible if he has success.  The Rangers' plan with Williams appears to be to keep promoting him until he fails, and then hope that experiencing failure leads to him making the adjustments he'll need to make to succeed in the majors long-term.  If all goes well, he could be in Texas by 2017, although with Nomar Mazara, Ryan Cordell, Lewis Brinson and even Joey Gallo (who some think will end up in right field) also in the outfield mix, Williams appears to be a prime candidate to be used as a trade chip in the next year or two.