Prospect Profile: Mason Williams

Yankees visiting Lee in Arkansas today
What Went Wrong: Winn & Kearns
(Photo Credit: West Orange Times)

Mason Williams | CF

Born and raised in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Williams grew up a Red Sox fan and later moved to Winter Haven, Florida with his family when he was 13. His father Derwin was drafted by the Reds out of college, but he instead pursued football, playing 42 games at wide receiver for the New England Patriots from 1985 to 1987. Mason starred both on the mound and in the outfield for West Orange High School, leading the Warriors to district championships as a sophomore, junior, and senior. During the summers he played for the Midland Redskins, a competitive travel team based out of Cincinnati, who helped to a pair of Connie Mack championships.

Committed to South Carolina, Baseball America ranked Williams the 145th best prospect in the draft this spring. The Yankees selected him with their fourth round pick, which sure enough was #145 overall. In a beautiful little slice of baseball symmetry, Williams signed right on the August 16th deadline for (you guess it), $1.45M. It was the largest bonus given to a draftee by the Yankees this year by half-a-million dollars.

Pro Debut
Williams reported to New York’s rookie level affiliate in the Gulf Coast League after signing, where he picked up four singles and a walk in just 19 plate appearances spread across five games. He struck out four times and stole a base, getting caught twice. Williams then participated in Dominican Instructional League after the season.

Scouting Report
Long and lanky, Williams checks in at 6-foot-0, 150 lbs. and is an outstanding athlete. He’s a legitimate prospect at both shortstop and in centerfield because of fast-twitch quickness, closing speed, good hands, and a powerful arm that unleashed upper-80’s fastballs in high school. The Yankees had him play strictly centerfield with the GCL Yanks, and chances are he’ll remain there. Regardless, Williams has the tools to be a well-above average defender at either position.

His offensive game is built around everything but power, which isn’t surprising given his build. Williams has a sweet lefty swing geared for hard contact, and he gets himself into good hitter’s counts with an advanced approach. His speed is an asset on the bases, though he can get a little reckless at times and run himself into outs. Future power may or may not come, it depends entirely on how Williams matures physically. Still just 19, he could grow into a 15 homer hitter, but otherwise cracking double digits will be a chore. There are no concerns about his makeup, and he obviously has good athletic bloodlines.

Here’s a video of one of Williams taking some hacks for his summer league team.

2011 Outlook
Williams could probably handle the jump into a full season league next year and survive on athleticism alone, but look for the Yanks to hold him back in Extended Spring Training before assigning him to Short Season Staten Island in June. If Williams performs well early in the year, they could be aggressive and bump him up to Low-A Charleston. Either way, don’t expect him to move that quickly, he’s a one level a year kind of prospect.

My Take
Depending on who you ask, Williams is the best prospect the Yankees drafted this summer. They went for upside and athleticism, and Williams offers the most well-rounded package of both, with good baseball skills and polish. I’m always concerned about low power guys because they could be prone to having the bat knocked out of their hands by good fastballs at the upper levels, but we’re a long ways away from having that be a real problem for Williams. If he can keep the strikeouts to a minimum and use his speed, he’s got a chance to be a game-changing force atop a big league lineup.

Yankees visiting Lee in Arkansas today
What Went Wrong: Winn & Kearns
  • Jimmy McNulty

    Is it possible that he puts on weight and adds power?

    • Esteban

      6’0 150 lbs is seriously skinny. I was a similar size after HS (though only 5’10”) and I’ve been able to get up to about 178 five years later through working out, so I’m sure Mason can if it’s gonna be part of his job.

    • Not Tank the Frank

      It all depends on his genetic makeup. His father was an athlete, so I’m sure he’ll be able to put on weight the more he matures and works out. His game is built around speed though, so I doubt the Yankees want him putting on too much weight anyway. Like Esteban noted, at 6’0 tall, 175 to 180lbs is about the most you want him at anyway.

      • All Praise Be To Mo

        What’s a reasonable comp for him if he hits his projection? Sizemore before the knee injuries maybe?

  • Ross in Jersey

    Yankee cap and a collared shirt just seems… odd.

    I’m surprised they gave such a low pick a bonus like that. Think a ceiling of BJ Upton would be realistic? Maybe with slightly more plate discipline (and less shitty attitude)?

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      It is a blue and white pinstriped collared shirt, though, you have to give him props for that.

    • vin

      I’d think Mason could definitely get to current BJ Upton’s level. Of course if Upton ever hits his ceiling, then he’ll be among the top players in the game.

      • Ross in Jersey

        Of course if Upton ever hits his ceiling, then he’ll be among the top players in the game his brother.

        Fixed that for ya!

        • vin

          I was actually going to say that, but I gave BJ some extra credit for his ability to provide elite defense from CF (when he feels like it). Not like Justin is a slouch in RF though.

      • murakami

        BJ is an enigma, but he certainly has power. I don’t know that we can assume that level of power for Mason, but it might not matter that much, since an increase will be felt at home since he’s left-handed.

        BJ has an awful swing, though. I’d love to see BJ put in Kevin Long’s hands. If he could prune that swing, he’d be a much more effective hitter, and I don’t even think he’d have to trade on the power his current swing generates. If this young guy can be anything approaching BJ in CF, the Yankees really would have something. BJ makes some over-the-shoulder glide catches to the wall that are sheer poetry. I also think that sometimes, he knows he’s not going to be able to get to the ball. Another outfielder might not quit on the play in terms of catching it, because he doesn’t read as well. Upton sometimes will wait for the ball off the wall, and it’s assumed he “dogged” the play, when actually, he recognized he wouldn’t be able to make the play. So what is actually a talent – the ability to recognize the viability of making a catch – is misinterpreted as a moral weakness.

        Also, I find it interesting that BJ had a back problem during a particular high tide period of criticism. This was never mentioned by his critics, who preferred to pontificate on his alleged “laziness.”

        All the same, I think BJ has talent that hasn’t yet come to the surface for one reason or another, although I wouldn’t presume to know why that is. Perhaps it’s just that the talent is apparently so big, and he’s still young.

    • Ted Nelson

      It came down to pay him that bonus or watch him at South Carolina for the next three years…

  • JobaWockeeZ

    Yum another toolsy centerfielder. Potentially Gardner with better contact and a bit better power with good defense. Me like.

    And what’s with the Red Sox fans in the system? Wasn’t Hughes a Sox fan? Jesus too was a Sox fana s well.

    But at least they now see the light.

    • Thomas

      Well at least Williams is from RI, so it makes sense he is a Red Sox fan. Hughes and Montero must just be Yankees haters.

      • murakami

        Then there are guys like Betances and Jeter. Jeter was announcing, at age 5, he intended to grow up and be the Yankees shortstop.

        Betances told other teams to stay away from him, as he was only interested in being a Yankee.

        Such good boys :D.

    • vin

      The Yankees take weak-minded children and mold them into dominant men.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Pain is Red Sox fanhood weakness leaving the body.

      • murakami

        …. and the converted are always so much more zealous.

    • CP

      Potentially Gardner with better contact

      That’s not likely. Gardner was 9th best in baseball in terms of contact percentage (second best on balls in the zone).

      • Ted Nelson

        Yeah, if Mason is anywhere near Gardner I would be thrilled… Hard to top Gardner on contact and defense.

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona

    Very happy to see the system being flooded with high upside athletes.
    Like to see him play some shortstop before they commit him to CF.

    Great job, as always, Mike.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      I think Williams asked to play center as he was more comfortable there.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Yet another similarity between he and Gumbs.

        • Thomas

          Should we start referring to them as Masongelo (or Masangelo) Willgumbs?

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            Lemonjello and Orangejello?

        • pete

          I think Gumbs has WAY more upside on offense. Mason could add power and should add at least a little muscle, but Gumbs is already jacked and has a great lefty power swing.

          • murakami

            Great lefty power swing?

            Step right on up, young man. I keep hoping they find a way to bring Miranda back and onto the bench, solely for that reason. An up-the-middle prospect with a lefty power swing is something to salivate over.

            Where is he likely to land in the system next year?

          • murakami

            Gumbs is a RHB :(

  • Jake LaMotta’s Left Hook

    I’d like to see them experiment with him at SS, just in case he could be that guy who, y’know, takes over Jetes.

    and also: I’m always concerned about low power guys because they could be prone to having the bat knocked out of their hands by good fastballs at the upper levels, but we’re a long ways away from having that be a real problem for Williams.

    This happened to me a lot when I played Little League, except it wasn’t the bat which flew out of my hands. When I played centerfield (I was all Gardner out there) sometimes the ball would knock my glove out of my hands when I caught it… I dunno how that happened.

    • JAG

      That seems like a much worse problem. If the bat gets knocked out of your hands, it’s an embarrassing strike, or maybe at worst an embarrassing strikeout. If it’s your glove, though, you may be looking at a run-creating error. Unless, of course, you’re able to catch the ball OUT OF YOUR GLOVE as it knocks your glove off, in which case, that’s just awesome.

    • emac2

      Are you the guy with the tiny hands on the Burger King commercial?

  • vin

    I love me some Prospect Profiles.

    Williams Watch in 2013?

    • Fair Weather Freddy

      They think Williams is a better prospect than Angelo Gumbs?

  • pat

    They had a bunting contest at Instructs down in DR. Mason won.

    • Andy In Sunny Daytona

      Maquinito came in last.

      • CP

        Someone’s got to teach him to bunt! We don’t want any lazy HR with runners on when a simple bunt could move the runner over.

      • Tom Zig

        He scoffed at the notion of bunting and smacked the ball 400 feet with his bare hand

  • Fair Weather Freddy

    How ironic that the Yanks took a kid who grew up a Red Sox fan in the 4th round (Williams), and the Red Sox took a kid who grew up a Yankee fan in the same round (Garin Cecchini)

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder


    • Jake LaMotta’s Left Hook

      I’m sure that happens often actually.

  • Jake H

    Skinny kid but he should add some weight and hopefully keep his speed. He seems really fast from the video.

  • Mike Ri

    Im from Rhode Island !! He’s lives 10 minutes away from me . .Cool !

    The Little State Representing !!!

    • Thomas

      Except he now lives in Florida.

  • pete

    I really hope he adds a lot of power. I really didn’t think that video was impressive at all, although it’s obviously not legitimate basis for any kind of projection. I’m still a much bigger fan of Gumbs, though.

    • Ted Nelson

      It’s not a legitimate basis for any kind of projections, yet you are using it to make projections? How does that work?

  • swisher’s fauxhawk

    His gaze terrifies me. Kind of like he wants to eat me through my computer screen.

    • BigDavey88

      (reads this)

      (scrolls back to the top to look again)

      (nods in agreement)

  • murakami

    Interesting kid. If he develops any sort of slug whatsoever, a little power goes a long way for LHB who can pull the ball.

    We surely seem to be stocking the cupboard with these up-the-middle athletic types, which is great to see.

    Wondering if you guys had any sort of inkling on how Chris Garcia is doing? I understand the Yanks feel no one will bite on this Could Have Been and may quietly bring him back into the system, if he recovers from his latest bout of ill health.

    I am among those Yankee fans that have actually gone to see him. There is a kind of mourning that goes on and a commiseration within our small group, every time fate finds another way to see him injured. With Garcia, seeing is believing, and elicits a real Shakespearean “O!”. A change up such as his should not even be legal. Any update would be appreciated.

    • Andy In Sunny Daytona

      I was over at a GCL game this summer in Tampa at the Yankee complex and Chris Garcia was sitting in the press box. So I would guess the Yankees are still keeping an eye on him.
      I got to see him pitch against the Daytona Cubs in 2008 and he was unbelievably good. Too bad he has brittle tendons.

      • murakami

        Ah, thanks for this. It’s probably a good thing fans who have seen him are in the minority, because they don’t have the weight on them of having seen such potential crushed over and over again.

        If he does come back into the system, I wonder if they’ll try and tweak his delivery. The elbow may be overly stressed by his mechanics, but when you start to fiddle with what is ultimately arcane, you wonder if you’re tampering with what causes the magic in the first place.

        Hope you get to see him pitch down there again.

        • rbizzler

          I am not sure that the fans that have seen them are in the minority, being that Garcia pitched in ST games that were broadcast on YES. His stuff seemed nasty, but he is a great recent reminder of the fickle nature of developing prospects.

          • murakami

            There’s a difference, though, in seeing a pitcher live. 3-D reality gives you a much better grasp of velocity and movement, for example. In ST, too, they don’t pitch full games, you see them for a few innings.

            I’ve seen him multiple times, and each start reinforces what kind of an immense talent we’re dealing with.

            In Garcia’s case, the only fickleness comes from his propensity for getting hurt. He otherwise would have forced his way into the 2009 picture, likely through the bullpen first.

            • murakami

              Just to add on here: I think what’s also so disappointing in Garcia’s case is that he is already a polished starter. He’s not a typical “prospect” in that, other than his health, he has been ready to make the jump for a couple of years.

              Here is a guy with a killer change up, for one thing, and possibly the best curveball in the system. He isn’t someone who has to “work on his changeup” or really, any pitch in his arsenal. He was ready as rain. Very different from someone who goes down when they are “a few years away” and development of a third effective pitch is still in question.

              Also, you become convinced on how sophisticated he is when seeing him live, and reconfirming what you saw by seeing him again. Seeing a guy for a ST stint of limited innings, no matter how impressive, isn’t going to deliver that the guy can go through the same lineup several times and still dominate.

              Chris Garcia can dominate lineups.

  • the other Steve S,

    Geez, get him a hat that fits.

  • YanksFan77

    Hope he’s more like Bernie than like Gerald.