It’s safe to say that 2013 has been a poor season for the Yankee farm system. They’ve had a few muted breakouts (Rafael DePaula, JR Murphy, O’Brien) coupled with quite a lot of stalled momentum from the 2012 season (Williams, Austin, Heathcott, Sanchez, Montgomery), and some decent work down low.
Depending on who you talked to, Mason Williams was the top Yankee outfield prospect entering this season. After two strong showings in short season ball in 2011 and Low-A in the first half of 2012, Williams was on top of the world. He was promoted to High-A to finish out the 2012 season, and did passably well enough (104 wRC+, 16.3 K%, 3.5 BB%, .303 BABIP, .145 ISO, .277/.302/.422) there to merit articles like these. People were justifiably comparing him to top Yankee outfield prospects like Austin Jackson, and celebrating the performance of the other members of his prospect trio.
And then, the bad news started to hit. In front of the backdrop of the 2013 MLB Yankee season, all of the above minor league disappointment followed. Mason Williams had his own makeup issues, and I hear a lot of people around here declaring him a failure, or at least a huge let down.
But really, take a look at his statistics:
110 wOBP+, 12.7 K%, 9.3 BB%, .313 BABIP, .104 ISO, .276/.348/.380.
Not half bad! Although Williams has no doubt seen some of his game take a hit–mostly hitting for power–he’s actually improved other aspects of it. His walk rate is significantly higher than it was a year ago, and his strikeout rate is just about the same. That’s great news, especially since power was never going to be the best thing about Williams’ game, given how small and wiry his frame is. The man has a knack for putting the ball in play. With his speed, that could be career.
Williams has also stayed mostly healthy following shoulder surgery, is relatively young and even more relatively inexperienced for the level he is playing in. It may seem like he is repeating High-A, but in reality Williams only played in 22 games last season before exiting with a shoulder injury. And, he’s still improving over that performance.
That doesn’t mean that we should be in love with everything Williams does. He’s been horrendous against left-handed pitchers–.196/.259/.252–while crushing right-handed ones. This is fairly common problem for players in the low minors, who get very little practice against strong left-handed pitching. Reports still have him clashing with coaches and playing poor fundamental defense. But even given that, it should be noted that after starting out slow, Williams has made some great adjustments at the plate, and has been on fire since the start of June. Something is going right.
Basically: Mason Williams isn’t having a bad season. He’s not having a great season, but there’s nothing here to fundamentally change my mind after his breakout 2012. Williams is still a top prospect, and has the potential to be an all star. Anyone who remembers Austin Jackson’s development can point to a similar toolsy player who broke out, then played okay-but-not-elite all the way to the majors… before posting regular 4 WAR seasons. Be patient with Williams.