Guest Post: Mason Williams Scouting Report


The following a guest post from David Gershman, better know as The Gersh around the Twitterverse. He spent last summer covering the NY-Penn League, and today gives us a firsthand scouting report on Mason Williams, the Yankees top position player prospect now that Jesus Montero is headed to Seattle. You can follow Gersh on Twitter at @Dave_Gershman.

(Photo via MiLB.com)

Of all the talent I was able to spectate in 2011, hardly anyone caught my eye to the extent of Mason Williams, Staten Island’s everyday center-fielder. The New York-Penn League technically ranks as the third lowest developmental level in baseball, ahead of the Pioneer and Appy Leagues and the Gulf Coast League. Therefore, finding talent to keep an eye on is somewhat rare. As a matter of fact, on a good year there might only be one elite-level talent worth watching in the Penn League. While I’m not claiming Williams to be an elite-level prospect, his upside and advanced skill-set are through the roof, clearly making him a must-see talent.

A scout once requested my opinion on Williams and my reasoning for touting him as much as I did last season. I replied, “After months of Extended Spring Training work, Williams began to hit the cover off of the ball right out of the gate and continued doing so even after the first week of the season. There wasn’t any point throughout the year in which he cooled off, and it was rather astonishing.” I labeled his everlasting performance as astonishing simply because inconsistency is so common amongst prospects at the short-season level. And it’s especially colloquial for those playing their first season as a professional. On to the report.

Williams is a terrific athlete with assets and upside that could make him an above-average major leaguer in the not-too-distant future. Quick hands, loads of bat speed and a smooth bat plain make him an advanced hitter, one that hits both lefties and righties without much problem for someone of his age and level. Williams is prone to making bad contact at times, given his high tendency to swing early in the count and, more importantly, at lousy pitches, but plate discipline is an aspect of his game I imagine he’ll be working to ameliorate until he reaches the majors.

While his approach needs some tuning, he has the right idea. As one professional scout noted, “a hitter constantly swinging at pitches early in the count would generally warrant some concern, but if the hitter is either making good contact with pitches in the zone or swinging at hittable pitches than there isn’t much of a problem, and Mason Williams often overdoes it, he customarily accounts for both.”

Williams has a thin and wiry frame, but contains tons of physicality and, in correspondence, some of the most physical upside the Yankees system. He isn’t expected to possess too much power down the road, but certainly enough to avoid being considered a “slap-hitter” of any sort. Remaining a center fielder isn’t a question, but the role system (at least according to two scouts), suggests that Angelo Gumbs might be a more adequate center-field option than Williams should both progress at a similar rate. Williams’ plus range and baseball instincts, at least for me, make him a more-than-viable candidate to be an every day center-fielder for the Yanks down the road.  Williams seemed to have developed refined accuracy as last season progressed. Accuracy sure is expected to develop accordingly, but arm strength is slightly different. As players fill out and develop more fortitude and muscle, they improve the distance and accuracy on their throws. Being that his arm is currently below average unquestionably is a non-issue.

Williams’ current and future tool grades are to the right and up a bit. If you need an explanation as to how these grades work, you can read my primer on how professional scouting reports are compiled.

The reason I gave Williams such a low power projection is mostly due to lack of leverage and loft in his swing. Although it’s quick and stays through the zone, it’s choppy and rather flat. That doesn’t make him a bad hitter by any means; it just decreases his power projection. That said, he’s shown the ability to hit to all fields and, in doing so, drive the ball. Additionally, I upgraded his overall future potential (OFP) because his range and speed suggest such an adjustment.

All professional scouts have a specific computer program that automatically adjusts OFP based on the weight of the prospect and his positional grade requirements. Meaning, center fielders are supposed to have plus range and speed, even if they aren’t that good of hitters. However, what if a first-baseman grades out to have 30 power but 70 speed and defense? His adjusted OFP would lower significantly since first base is a power position. Thus, center field is a speed and defense position.

The Yankees have a rare commodity in Williams, a clear center-fielder with the ability to hit. He’s only 20-years of age, so the Yankees obviously won’t be rushing him at any point. That said, if he shows he can hit in Charleston I’d expect him to finish the season off in Tampa and eventually head to Trenton sometime in 2013. Unlike his time spent in Staten Island, Williams won’t be hitting .349 in Charleston this season, but you can unequivocally expect a to see improvements and maturity in Mason Williams’ game. He’s a bright player with a bright future.

Categories : Guest Columns


  1. Thomas Cassidy says:

    Good article. Any comparison to the type of player he could be?

    • kenthadley says:

      Ken Lofton?

      • Thomas Cassidy says:

        Never even thought of that, I was thinking more about current players, but I’d be very happy with Lofton.

        Darnell McDonald?

      • canointhehof1stballot says:

        Lofton, nice reference. That would sure be nice since IMHO Kennys a borderline Hofer. Id be happy is he was a Gardner clone.

        • Samuel says:

          Williams is a better pure hitter than Gardner has been or ever will be. But as Gersh said, Williams defense is good, but not like Brett’s.

          • RetroRob says:

            Gardner’s strength is in his ability to work the count and take walks. He’s had that since he signed. I don’t get the impression Williams is in that same class as Gardner walk wise. Sounds as if he’s a better hitter, for both average and projecting with more pop, but does not have as good an eye, and it’s doubtful he’s as fast as Gardner. Few are.

            • Samuel says:

              Didn’t say anyhing about speed. Both are extremely fast.

              What would you rather have? An aggressive hitter who hits .320 with an OBP of around .350 or a guy who hits .270 with an OBP of .370?

              Give me the guy who hits for the higher average, as over the long run hits do more damage than walks.

              Patience comes with time and experience, and if Williams is attacking good hitters pitches early in the count, it is much better than taking a pitch down the middle for the sake of “working the count.”

              Plus, the Staten Island team advocates being aggressive at the plate on hittable pitches in the strike zone.

              • Ted Nelson says:

                Hits do more damage than walks to a degree, but wouldn’t you rather quantify that than just arbitrarily guesstimate?

                • Samuel says:

                  Over 600 PAs, a .370 OBP gets you on base 222 times, where a .350 OBP gets you on base 210 times.

                  Give me the 12 less times on base with a higher batting average any day of the week, and twice on Sunday — when they used to have scheduled doubleheaders.

                  Hits can move runners over more than one base at a time, and score most of the runs created during the game.

                  Man on second and two outs, I want my guy swinging the bat at hittable pitches and not taking strikes down the middle to work the count.

                  • Mike Axisa says:

                    I don’t think anyone has said walks are a substitute for hits. They’re a substitute for outs. It would be nice if everyone was a .300 hitter, but that’s now how it works.

                    • Samuel says:

                      Obviously, walks are better than outs, but hits are much better than walks.

                      Ted asked me to quantify my prior remark and I did.

                      Again, over 600 PAs give me a 50 point higher average any day over getting on base 12 more times overall via walks.

                      The extra hits will help a team win more games than those 12 extera times on base.

      • Sayid J. says:

        Lofton? This is why prospects fail to live up to expectations.

  2. canointhehof1stballot says:

    Anyone else seeing Grady Sizemore in this kids scouting writeups?

    Hes by no means punch n judy with the power but no ones thinking 40 hrs just a nice level swing and a slick fielder, reminds me of Sizemore when he first broke in with CLE

    • Thomas Cassidy says:

      I hope not. Sizemore can’t stay healthy! But if he could end up like Sizemore, that would be great.

    • CJ says:

      I don’t see Grady Sizemore at all.

      • canointhehof1stballot says:

        Really CJ? How so? not that I necessarily disagree Im just curious what you do see

        • CJ says:

          Denard Span

          • canointhehof1stballot says:

            Anything to back that up? Or is this just the eyeball evaluation at work

          • Thomas Cassidy says:

            If he ends up like Span they should trade him right now.

            • canointhehof1stballot says:

              HA now thats funny thom

            • CJ says:

              Span has been a very solid major league CF. Slowed by concussion.

              • Sweet Dick Willie says:

                Career OPS+ of 103, so just a tick above average.

                The scouting reports certainly seem to suggest that Williams will be an above-average major league player.

                Of course, scouting reports carry no guarantees, and Span is also young enough to show some improvement in the future.

                • RetroRob says:

                  True, although OPS+ only rates part of his game. It would be like judging Gardner’s entire game only on his OPS+. Span has generated anywhere from 2.7 to 4.1 fWAR in his full seasons, and even generated a 2.2 in 2011 in less than half a season (70 games).

                  Williams’ bat projects out higher than Span’s at similar points in their careers, yet that can all change on a dime. Williams may not even do as well as Span has in the majors, or may exceed Span by a substantial margin. Too far off to make comparisons.

                • Ted Nelson says:

                  Span was a good hitter his first two seasons and has been average the last two seasons… So depends which Span you’re getting offensively.

  3. gageagainstthemachine says:

    I live in Billings, MT (home of the Billings Mustangs of the Reds organization). We are definitely in one of the lower levels of development (Pioneer League), but don’t underestimate the talent that actually makes it to the Bigs through these levels. Many legends and current major leaguers made their start in Billings (and other developmental leagues). George Brett being the biggest name and Joey Votto probably being the biggest current former Mustang. So, with that said, there’s no writing off talent at this level just because it’s low. I will definitely be keeping an eye on Williams’ development as a big time Yankee fan stuck in Montana. Which, if you ever make your way to Billings, come catch a Mustangs game. Our stadium (Cobb Field/Dehler Park) is one of the finest you will see in the minor leagues at any level. Guaranteed. And we have a lot of fun and loyal fans. Just the way baseball should be.

  4. CJ says:

    50-Coco Crisp
    65-Shane Victorino

  5. canointhehof1stballot says:

    Lets see some AA numbers before we call Boom or Bust, but since its all about speculation and what we currently know how about is he just ends up Paul O Neill 2.0

    • Thomas Cassidy says:

      I’d rather him turn into Kemp or J. Upton.

      • CJ says:

        I’d rather see him turn into Mickey Mantle or maybe Willie Mays but that’s not within his potential skill set anymore than Matt kemp or Justin upton.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

      He reminds me of Mike Stanton, except he’s left-handed……oh, and he’s not a power hitter…..oh, and he won’t strike out as much…..and he doesn’t quite have the same build……and they play different positions….and he’s probably a bit faster.
      But other than that, I definitely see the next Mike Stanton

  6. Craig Maduro says:

    I wonder what the likelihood is of Williams smoothing out his swing and making some slight adjustments over the next few years that allow him to hit for a little more power.

    Somewhere between Gardner and Ellsbury would be nice. Lead off hitter, 13-16 HR, etc. I’d be thrilled with that. A darker version of Brett Gardner though?? Eh, (shoulder shrug).

    • CJ says:

      Scouting report is giving .290-.304 5-9 hr w/ speed and defense in cf. I say coco crisp to Shane victorino. I can’t use ellsbury as a comp after 2011 breakout. Williams seems to be a better pure hitter than Gardner.

      • Craig Maduro says:

        Well, I’m not necessarily talking about that type of power output either, but a 13-16 HR type of guy? I wonder how attainable that is.

        Instead of saying someone “between Gardner and Ellsbury” I suppose I could have just said Victorino. He’s pretty much the perfect representation of the type of player that I hope Williams develops into.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      I don’t think Gardner is a good comp, just a convenient name since he’s a current Yankee. Gardner is far more patience and far less hit that how Mason projects, and even if he doesn’t end up with any more HR power I think Mason will SLG better with doubles and triples power.

      I also think you might want to look around the league at CFs before disparaging Gardner.

      • Craig Maduro says:

        Yea, you’re definitely right that Gardner is convenient to compare Williams to, but I think it is a good starting point – if not a good comp. Just makes it easy to compare/contrast projections as you did.

        I wasn’t trying to knock Gardner too much. I was just saying that if Gardner is the type of player that Williams turns out to be, I wouldn’t be excited about it.

      • canointhehof1stballot says:

        In all fairness how many kids display patience in low level ball? Usually thats developed and the yankees have an amazing track record of developing patient bats.

  7. mclusky says:

    So at his best, he should develop into a solid, everyday regular with single-digit-HR power? I’m rooting for the kid, but that’s not exactly an exciting prospect.

    • Thomas Cassidy says:

      Gardner has single digit home run power. What’s wrong with him?

      • mclusky says:

        I love Gardner, but he wasn’t a prospect anyone followed with great anticipation. Also, Gardner has a speed rating of 70, which is the difference between a solid, everyday regular and Major League star, according to these terms,

        • mclusky says:

          Sorry, Gardner had an 80 speed rating. So Mason is a slower Gardner with a better arm?

          • Samuel says:

            I don’t know what games you are watching, but Gardner has a very good throwing arm. Accurate and usually on a line.

            He had 19 assists over the last two years.

        • CJ says:

          Gardner is a classic overachiever since his 1st year of college. Great story.

          • Thomas Cassidy says:

            I’d rather have an over-achiever like Gardner, than an under-achiever like Upton.

            And is it really an over-achieving if he has put up two similar years in a row? Maybe he’s just this good.

            • AndrewYF says:

              Really? I’d much rather have Justin Upton. Just because, you know, he’s a far better player.

              • Steve (different one) says:

                Have to assume he meant BJ. Point still holds.

                • Gonzo says:

                  It’s not crazy to think it for BJ.

                  BJ has 19.8 fWAR to Brett’s 14.8, in 2 more years of work.

                  BJ averages 2.885 fWAR per 500 PA’s vs. Brett’s 4.68. Brett also has the higher fWAR year between the two of them.

                  This isn’t the end all be all calculation because fWAR isn’t bulletproof, but BJ was also a 2nd overall draft pick.

                  • Javierkei Burnigavano says:

                    Maybe Brett Gardner’s defense is so magically good (by far valued way more than anyone else in baseball by a huge margin) that he’s elite and among the best players in the league.

                    Or maybe his defense is overly weighted and WAR is a flawed statistic.

                    If Gardner was performing similarly in Oakland or Cleveland, people would say he is a decent player who comes cheap but no one would argue that he is borderline elite.

                    Gardner is a nice story, but definitely receives a good share of undue enthusiasm. In terms of pure production, no way I would take his year last year over Matt Holiday’s, Carlos Gonzalez’s, Josh Hamilton’s, Lance Berkman’s or a bunch of other corner outfielder’s with lesser WARs.

                    • Gonzo says:

                      I never compared Gardner to those other guys and I never said fWAR was bulletproof.

                      However, if you want to talk offense, that’s not so one-sided in BJ’s favor either. who had a higher wOBA over the last 2 years combined, BJ Upton or Brett Gardner?

                      After you figure out the answer, you’ll see yet another reason why I said comparing Gardner to BJ Upton favorably isn’t crazy talk.

            • CJ says:

              He is this good. I’m a fan. Just responding to his lack of early prospect status and calls for him to improve.

    • gageagainstthemachine says:

      Pete Rose. 160 total HR. Look at Jeter. Yes, different positions and most OF produce more power, but success is not dictated solely by power. Many ways to score runs. That said, a little more power would be nice, but don’t reject the overall scouting just because of a lack of power. Let’s see what the kid can do before writing him off at the lowest level and only being 20 years old.

      • mclusky says:

        I’m not writing off the kid–I want him to be a star! I’m just not seeing Pete Rose or Derek Jeter based on this report. But those are two of the greatest players of all time, not exactly a fair comparison. This report projects him to be a “solid, everyday regular” across the board, except for his “organizational guy”-level power. I hope this scout is underestimating him!

        • gageagainstthemachine says:

          I didn’t mean that he would be Rose or Jeter, just wanted to point out that sometimes power is looked at too much in prospects and players overall. I think HRs get too much focus, especially when you look at players that simply aren’t built for it but bring other attributes to the table. And who knows, maybe he will develop more power. I too hope the scout underestimates him. Although, I wish that with all our prospects. I want to see more guys make it through the system and lead the team in the future.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      This is a projection, not a ceiling. Even still I find it a little pessimistic. Best case? Guy has the athleticism and baseball skill to develop into a hall of fame player. It’s not likely, but that’s the best case.

      HR power is a small part of the equation, as pointed out by others above. That two players both had the same HR total doesn’t mean that their overall values were anywhere close.

      • CJ says:

        Best case is Shane Victorino. Proceed accordingly, hug, trade or hold

        • Craig Maduro says:

          What’s the difference between hug and hold? Besides the fact that the prospects we love get traded or mismanaged.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          I have to disagree. Victorino had a great 2011, but otherwise has been a good above average player. If he ends up mirroring Victorino that would be a great outcome, but I strongly disagree that’s his best case. Guy is a great athlete with really advanced hit tool… Could develop into a HOF player in the best case and far eclipse the great Shane Victorino. The more you repeat your comparisons doesn’t make them more accurate. Comparisons are a nice point of reference but otherwise pretty worthless.

    • Bo Knows says:

      its early, the scouting report is really encouraging though. The big mystery about whether Williams develops more power is dependent on how he fills out he really has three potential outcomes right now. He’s the son of a former NFL player so its not out of the question he could gain 50+ lbs of muscle and be a big slugger (least likely); he might develop that thin, freakishly strong, wiry frame a la Grandy and BJ Upton that has a ton of power (more likely but how much more is impossible to say), or he could just as easily have single digit hr 5-12 hr potential stated in the article.

    • viridiana says:

      Mickey Rivers?

  8. Steve H says:

    Amazing that he’s only 2 weeks younger than Trout.

  9. My Pet Goat says:

    This scouting report feels like it was written by Ignatius J. Reilly. Colloquial? Really?

  10. Bavarian Yankee says:

    great read, I’d like to see more of those scouting reports with the 20-80 grades.

  11. nsalem says:

    Offensively Chuck Knoblauch
    Defensively Vada Pinson

  12. boogie down says:

    I think I remember Law/Callis/one of those guys mentioning that Mason could have 20-HR power. That would be awesome.

    • RetroRob says:

      I saw that too, although I was quite interested in David Gershman’s description of Williams’ swing. Power is not generated by size, or at least it’s not the only component. Size and strength are important. More important is the path of the swing, and bat velocity through the zone that generates power. Don Mattingly was what, 5’11″ 185 pounds? He was able to drive the ball because of the angle of his bat through hitting zone and his bat speed. Joe Morgan was 5’6″ (and I’m not even sure he was that tall), but he was very strong, quick bat, nice upper cut. He had not problem hitting a ball 400-450 feet.

      I always thought it was interesting that Mattingly credited Lou Piniella for teaching him to use his lower body to drive the ball for power once he got to the majors. I say interesting because Piniella was a big enough guy to hit for power, but he came of age during the the pitching dominated 1960s, bigger ballparks, articifial turf, where making contact was key. He was a line-drive, upper-body hitter who didn’t use his lower body. Same with Thurman Munson. A great hitter, but an upper-body hitter. Very still from the waist down. Make contact, drive the ball to all fields. George Brett was that way too, as he was from the Charlie Lau school of hitting, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that he began to drive the ball more for HR power, using more of his lower body.

      Anyway, got off track. Williams may very well have the strength and the bat speed to be a 20-HR hitter, but it sounds as if he will need to change his approach toward hitting. It’s probably too early to know if he will do that, or if he can do it.

  13. Steve H says:

    Anyone throw a John Mayberry Sr. comp on him yet?


  14. CMP says:

    Good article but I don’t really agree with the authors assessment of the NY Penn league. He makes it sound like there’s almost no MLB talent. In the last 10 or so years, there’s been quite a few MLB players come out that league including these from the Yankees organization alone:

    Francisco Cervelli
    Robinson Cano
    Melky Cabrera
    Shelley Duncan
    Brett Gardner
    Wily Mo Pena
    John Axford
    Brandon Claussen
    Phil Coke
    Michael Dunn
    Sean Henn
    Jeff Karstens
    Ian Kennedy
    Daniel McCutchen
    Mark Melancon
    Chien-Ming Wang

    • Sayid J. says:

      Pretty sure that list of names proves his point. He didn’t say no MLB talent; he said on a good year, there might be 1 elite prospect. None of those guys were what you would call elite prospects, and only 1 (Cano) developed into being an elite player so far.

      • CMP says:

        The Yankees have produced the best second baseman in baseball in Cano, All Star caliber players in Gardner, Wang, Ian Kennedy and John Axford and players such as Evan Longoria, Josh Hamilton, Wade Davis, Ryan Dempster just to name a few have come through that league.

        If by “elite”, he’s taking about a Willie Mays once in a generation type players, I’ll accept his point but otherwise I’d say that league is pretty good.

      • RetroRob says:

        Yeah, but that list is just NY Yankees. I’m pretty sure other teams play in that league!

        I get his point, but it did seem it might be a bit extreme, yet he would know better than I.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          Agreed. Plus Yankees had a pretty barren system for the first part of the last ten years.

          I found the report fairly pessimistic overall. Guess that may come with the territory of tracking short season guys… But there’s a ton of talent down there and some of it will develop.

  15. LarryM.,Fl. says:

    He obviously stands out in the crowd of players in the NY-Penn League. But with Charleston, Tampa, AA and AAA on his to-do list. Its way too early for any comparisons. He does sound appealing especially with the Yankees lack of OF ready for the show. But we can start our watch aided by the wonderful reports which fuel our expectations of the next Yankee star player.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      The comparisons are of his skills if they develop to different levels. I don’t think it’s too early at all. How much you put into them is up to you. Instead of not making comparisons, I’d suggest simply taking an approach that these comparisons are a point of reference and nothing more than that.

  16. The 6'7 & Above Club says:

    Marlon Byrd ?

    How about Steve Finley for fantasy comparisons… I’d take that career if he developed and panned out like this.

  17. G says:

    I saw one scouting report give him an 80 in speed… So I’ll wait until I see him myself.

  18. neo says:

    Mason is on Twitter if you want to follow him: @MjordanW9 Nothing too exciting, but I have him on my Yankees List

  19. Samuel says:

    One more comparison to Gardner should be made.

    Gardner did really well in Staten Island and skipped Charleston adn went directly to Tampa.

    Yankees should do the same thing with Williams, send him right to Tampa, near where his home is.

    Two reasons the Yankees won’t do this is:

    1) Gardner was a college guy adn slightly older.

    2) Heathcott will start in Tampa (if healthy) and that would be two CF types in same outfield. Don’t think Yankees would put both at same level although one or other could move to left field.

    Challenge the kid and see what he does.

  20. your mom says:

    I don’t know who he projects to be but for the love of God, feed the boy!!!!!

    • Samuel says:

      Williams has tweeted over the last couple weeks that he has put on 25 pounds, and based upon his amount of workout tweets, I am confident those pounds are of the muscle variety.

      Look for the kid to hit for more gap power, with home runs coming down the road.

      • RetroRob says:

        There is no way he’s put on 25 pounds since October, unless it is fat (and even that would be hard to do), or chemically aided.

        I thought I had read somewhere that he had put on 25 pounds since he was drafted 18 months back. That would be more realistic.

        • Bo Knows says:

          it is entirely possible, especially in 4 months time if he’s been lifting almost every day. If Williams was built like Bryce Harper or even Slade Heathcott you might be right but Mason is 150 lbs which is seriously underweight for anyone especially a pro-athlete.

        • Samuel says:

          Who said anything about since October of last year?

          Mason Williams is no where near 150 lbs anymore. The Yankees don’t change their player measurements much at all.

          That is the same with Manny Banuelos (who is listed at 155, but is much heavier) and Ramon Flores (who is listed at 150, but is easily 170-180 lbs.)

          Williams is at least 175 lbs, and should continue to put on weight as he matures.

        • Samuel says:

          I have confirmation that Mason Williams now weighs 185 lbs.

  21. awy says:

    sanchez still clear #1 positional player in system until he’s moved off of catcher

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Yeah, I also found Mike’s proclamation weird. Can see arguing for either of the two. Plus Bichette or Ravel isn’t exactly far behind.

  22. Matt1022 says:

    What about a comparison to Bernie Williams, obv except for the fact Bernie was a switch hitter. But he was also just a little scrawny kid but he turned out okay for the yanks.

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