For many years, the Yankees outfield was one of the most prestigious positions to play in all of sports. Legends like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle once roamed out there and now have plaques just beyond the center field wall. More contemporary, Bernie Williams was the last great Yankee who came up through the system and thrived while holding down centerfield. So it’s no surprise that the Yankees are very excited for what Mason Williams brings to table, as he quickly works his way through the minors.
Williams, 21, was a fourth-round pick for the Yankees in 2010. In 2011, after only 18 at-bats with the Yankees rookie ball team a year prior, he went on to hit .349/.395/.468 for the Staten Island Yankees and officially opened many eyes to his potential. Last season he spent time in both Charleston (Lo-A) and Tampa (Hi-A) and batted .304/.359/.489 and .277/.302/.422, respectively.
Again, it was while with the Charleston Riverdogs did he garner a ton of attention, which earned him the top spot in Yankees farm system this year in Baseball America prospect list. According to the publication, he has, “explosive offensive ability, thanks to a special combination of quick-twitch athleticism, excellent running speed, above-average bat speed and snap in his wrists and forearms.”
His blend of hitting for both average and power is what has many people within the Yankees organization gushing. Many project that he’ll hit 20 or more home runs per year, which is exactly what the Yankees covet in their outfielders, especially since he bats from the left side. At times he can become a slap hitter, but he has the hand and wrists to make it work. But, as he matures as a hitter look for him to hit for more power, which will lead to more balls landing in the seats.
He doesn’t walk very often (6.8% BB% at Charleston in 2012), but he also doesn’t strike out either (10.6% K% at Charleston in 2012). Meanwhile, he collected a cool 131 wRC+ rating while at Charleston and 104 wRC+ rating when he was promoted to Tampa, in 276 and 83 at-bats, respectively.
He has excellent speed, but needs to learn how to properly steal a bag. He had 19 stolen bases at Charleston last season, but was also caught nine times. Overall in 2012, in 33 steal attempts he was caught 13 times, showing that his instincts when on base needs some tweaking.
His fielding has the potential to belong in the Austin Jackson category. Along with his excellent speed and instincts in the outfield, he has a cannon for an arm. The Yankees haven’t had a centerfielder in a long time who can strike fear into runners who are trying to take the extra base.
Williams still has a little ways to go through the minors. He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury last July when diving after a flyball. He’ll likely start the season in Tampa (Hi-A), and could make it to AA Trenton by the end of the season. Personally, I wouldn’t expect him in the Bronx until 2015, unless he absolutely rakes in both AA and AAA. He has all the tools you want in a prospect and it’s no wonder he on many top prospect lists around baseball. He could become part of an very young outfield in just a few years time if he continues on the path he’s on right now.