Scouting Report and Video: Nick Williams

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Although 18-year-old outfielder Nick Williams entered his high school campaign as a potential first-round pick, a rocky senior season caused his draft stock to drop. But the Rangers took the Galveston native in the second round, and he has performed well thus far. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the prospect with a scouting report and video.

Talented outfielder Nick Williams entered his senior season at Galveston Ball High School with aspirations of being a first-round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. In fact, Williams' raw talent and ability to hit had him on the radar of scouts since early in his high school career.

Williams stood out last summer at the Perfect Game USA National Showcase, when National Baseball Expert and former Rangers scout Frankie Piliere ranked him as the event's 10th-best prospect.

But a disappointing senior campaign in high school caused Williams' stock to drop. In February, Piliere ranked Williams 41st in his initial 2012 MLB Draft top 100 prospects list. By May, he'd slipped to 100.

When the dust had settled on his senior season, Williams was inconsistent at the plate––where he'd previously shined––and remained raw in the game's other aspects. While he ultimately fell out of first-round consideration, the Rangers ended up selecting him with their second pick of the second round––93rd overall.

The native Texan had initially committed to play his collegiate ball at the University of Texas, but he switched and signed a letter of intent with Texas A&M around mid-season. Regardless of his college commitment, scouts considered him extremely signable as long as he went off the board within the top few rounds. There were even rumors that he'd attend a junior college––where he'd be eligible for the draft after his freshman season––if he didn't sign a professional contract.

Knowing that, the Rangers selected Williams and were able to sign him just a week after the draft for a slightly below-slot $500,000 bonus ($515,600 value). He signed at the same time as the Rangers' other top picks––Lewis Brinson, Joey Gallo, Collin Wiles, and Jamie Jarmon––and the group of prospects attended a press conference and Rangers game in Arlington together before shipping out to Arizona to begin their pro careers.

Despite the uncertainty created by his rocky high school campaign this past spring, Williams has performed quite well this summer. Through his first 20 professional games with the rookie-level Surprise Rangers, he has posted a .330/.385/.477 slash line. That's 29-for-88 with four doubles, three triples, and a home run. He has drawn six walks, struck out 22 times, and stolen eight bases in nine attempts.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound outfielder got out to an extremely hot start but has cooled off lately. Over his last six games, he is 6-for-29 with 13 strikeouts.

Shortly after the Rangers selected Williams in the second round, one area scout for an opposing team said he liked Williams' game. He explained that there was some present ability to hit––predicting that he'd hit well in the Arizona League––but was also quick to state that everything else about his game was extremely raw.

Although Williams is little more than a month into his professional career, that abbreviated scouting report appears to be pretty accurate.

Surprise Rangers manager Corey Ragsdale has been impressed with Williams' work at the plate thus far.

"It's fun, watching him hit," Ragsdale said in a late-June interview with Lone Star Dugout. "He's ready to come in right now and compete at the plate. Without a doubt, he has shown that he can barrel some balls up. He's got some thunder in the bat––in the barrel, too––just watching him in BP. It has been fun to watch. Every time he walks up to the plate, something can happen."

A left-handed hitter, Williams already has a big league body with some more room to fill out. He shows good bat speed with––as Ragsdale says––a little bit of raw power. While he's got an aggressive approach––which is overly aggressive at times––he seems to have a hint of a plan up there.

Like any young high school product, there's plenty for Williams to work on and refine at the plate. But with some present hit-ability to go along with good bat speed, strength and wheels, he could be ready to compete at the full-season level out of spring training next year. However, it's the progress that he makes in the rest of his game that could determine next year's opening-day assignment.

While the 18-year-old prospect is a definite plus runner who should be able to cover some ground in the outfield and steal bases, he shows little feel for the defensive and base running aspects of the game at present. Amateur scouts were quick to point out his suspect route-running and throwing mechanics in high school, and he's spent the vast majority of his time in left field this summer despite his athletic ability.

Ragsdale says the Rookie Rangers' coaching staff is really focusing to help Williams improve in those areas this summer.

"I don't know if (Williams) has played as much baseball as maybe Lewis (Brinson) has or some of the other guys," he said. "But the one thing he was ready to do was come in and hit.

"We've got other stuff––obviously we have some hitting issues to work on as well. But he's going to get plenty of work in the outfield. He's going to get plenty of work on the bases. He's going to get plenty of work on his fly balls––all that stuff."

Regardless of how well he hits the remainder of this summer, Williams will almost certainly play out the season with the rookie club. It's a good environment for a player who just needs experience. All Surprise Rangers games are preceded by a two-hour workout that includes batting practice, infield/outfield, and base running work––exactly what Williams needs in addition to game experience.

It's difficult to project where he ultimately settles in the outfield. Although his defensive game is raw, he has the ability to cover lots of ground. But his below-average arm currently has him in left field. Some scouts believe Williams has the ability to flash average arm strength if he's able to clean up his throwing mechanics.

Due to his inconsistent high school season, it was believed that many teams had begun to shy away from the idea of selecting Williams in the draft's top few rounds. But the Rangers showed faith in the toolsy outfielder, and he's displayed lots of raw talent with good offensive results to match thus far.

The following video shows a handful of Williams at-bats from the Surprise Rangers' games between June 27 and 30.

Nick Williams, OF, Surprise Rangers: 6/27-30/2012 (best viewed in full screen and HD).

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