Name: Mason Williams
DOB: August 21, 1991
Batting and Power. Even when Williams struggled with lower batting averages he still showed the basic traits to potentially become a high-average hitter; plus bat speed, a willingness to use the whole field, plus plate discipline and advanced pitch recognition. However, being in and out of the lineup as often as he was due to various injuries had him pressing a bit too much at the plate and he would often times expand his zone in an failed attempt to jump-start his hitting. When he relaxed, allowed the game to come to him, and took what the pitchers gave him he had displayed real top-notch hitting ability, just like he did a year ago when he walked more than he struck out between Double-A and Triple-A and combined to hit .318. Arguably more so than most hitters, Williams, who has the natural discipline to be an extremely consistent hitter, needs to not get away from his game. He has solid power too for a leadoff hitter, flashing average power potential at times, and that's what has caused him to get off of his game; he can try to hit home runs when that's really not his game and it can have a negative effect. Staying gap to gap and hitting line-drives [and not worrying about power] is the consistent approach he needs.
Base Running and Speed. Williams has been and still very much is a plus runner speed-wise even though his stolen base totals to date might suggest otherwise. Part of the problem swiping bases has been his inability to get on base consistently over the years but another part of the problem is he's still learning the nuances of reading pitchers' moves. While speed is his best tool, ironically it's in the running game where his confidence lags and his aggressiveness falls short. A bit too concerned with getting caught stealing, once he learns that failure is part of the game and he lets it loose a bit more he could have some solid stolen bases seasons. He's a plus runner even though his impact could play down a level or two until his confidence rises.
Defense. His plus speed gives him plus range and he has some of the best feel for the centerfield position. The Yankees have been playing him in both corner outfield spots in recent years to increase his defensive versatility and while he shows the natural talent to be a plus defender in those spots as well he is still learning the nuances of the corners so he will make the occasional mistake. His arm strength isn't a plus tool, maxing out more as above average, but it's certainly more than enough to keep runner's honest. He's a plus defender but one who just happens to be better in center than the corners right now.
Projection. With plus speed, plus defense, outfield versatility, and one of the better small-ball games around, Williams has always safely projected as a potential big league reserve outfielder at minimum and that floor still very much exists to this day. We've noted over the years, however, that he always had more hitting potential than he had shown, especially if he could get back to not pressing at the plate and being more patient not only in his at-bats but with his own on-the-field production over the course of a season. He could major steps towards that mentality last season and if he can continue that approach going forward he still has a considerable ceiling left to be tapped, one with big league starting centerfield potential. Style-wise he compares favorably to former big league outfielder Kenny Lofton as a speed-defensive centerfielder with some real hitting ability. Staying healthy and on the field consistently would go a long way towards scratching that kind of potential.
ETA. N/A. We noted last season that a strong showing at the minor league level last year could land him in the Bronx in 2015 if the needs arose and it played out that way. The Yankees are pretty deep at the outfield position in the Bronx right now and considering Williams had another season end abruptly due to injury he seems most likely destined to open up in Triple-A where he once again will serve as a long-distance big league backup if injuries pop up with the team again.