Position: Second Baseman
Rhymes continued his steady climb through the Tigers system after joining the organization as a 27th round choice out of William & Mary College in 2005. During his final season at William & May, Rhymes earned 2nd Team All-CAA honors and 1st Team All-East Region on the back of a Colonial Athletic Association leading .413 batting average.
During his first summer as a professional, Rhymes played in 61 games for the Oneonta Tigers, and tied for sixth in the New York-Penn League with an impressive .328 average in his debut. The success continued for Will as he moved up to West Michigan for the 2006 season; ranking among the Midwest League leaders in runs (80) and hits (132), while also turning the second most double-plays (80) among league second basemen.
The Tigers continued to push Rhymes up another level in 2007, jumping him to Lakeland to start the campaign. In 88 games for the Flying Tigers, Will hit .304; good enough for sixth in the Florida State League while also ranking third in on-base percentage. In the season's second half, the organization pushed Rhymes to Double-A Erie out of necessity, and though he struggled, the experience proved valuable as he entered the 2008 season.
Rhymes put together a banner – some may say breakout – season with Erie in 2008, leading the Eastern League in hits (158); a mark that also ranked second in Erie team history. Rhymes continued to dot his name on the EL leader boards by placing third in the circuit in runs (76), fifth in triples (7), and sixth in average (.306). Injuries again necessitated a late season promotion for Rhymes, this time to the minor leagues highest rung; Triple-A. In just six games for Toledo, Rhymes hit .320 with another triple and two runs driven home.
Rhymes certainly isn't an imposing player, registering at a generous 5-9/155, but he makes up for his lack of size with tons of effort and good all-around baseball ability. At the plate, Rhymes has a knack for making contact on pitches throughout the strike zone. He sees pitches well and has a good grasp of the strike zone and his ability to handle off-speed pitches. He lacks power, but he works well from line to line and has enough speed to leg out some extra-base hits that other players may not attain. He has good instincts on the bases and is willing to aggressively take bases when the opportunity presents itself.
In the field, Rhymes has crafted himself into a very good second basemen. He has good first-step quickness to both sides and enough quickness to get to balls both up the middle and in the hold between first and second. Will has the arm strength to make all the throws from second base, including tough throws with little leverage on the pivot. He's a gritty player that will stand in on any play without backing down. The organization tried Rhymes at shortstop late in the season in an attempt to increase his versatility, but few scouts believe he has the range or arm to handle the position in much more than an emergency role.
Nobody can doubt Rhymes toughness, heady play, and leadership ability, as well as his ability to make contact. He's proven many scouts wrong with his ability to succeed at the upper levels of the minor leagues, and any versatility he can add to his arsenal could prove to get him a nice utility gig at the Major League level.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% AAA
Rhymes is prone to minor, nagging injuries due to his all-out style of play, but his toughness precludes him from sitting out games unless there is something significant wrong. He's been largely healthy throughout his baseball career, and indications are he should be able to continue that trend.
Rhymes will be back at Toledo to start the 2009 season. There are several players (Scott Sizemore and Michael Hollimon in particular) vying for the opportunity to replace Placido Polanco at second base, and Rhymes is right in the thick of the race after his successful Double-A campaign. Hollimon's shoulder surgery and Sizemore's wrist problems in 2008 may have opened the door for Rhymes to really step forward and put himself in position to seize the job. Don't be shocked if he gets an opportunity in Detroit at some point in 2009, and once he settles into a role, there is a strong possibility he continues to play strong defense and hit for average.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.