Archive for Mason Williams
The 2012 season has been an up and down year for the Yankees farm system, fitting given the extreme variability and uncertainty inherent in following the minor leagues. While a number of prospects have taken big steps forward, injuries to several top prospects have overshadowed the farm’s 2012 successes. Injuries to Manny Banuelos, Jose Campos, and Mason Williams, likely three of the Yankees top five prospects, will prevent them from playing again this season, and both Campos and Banuelos have already missed substantial time. Since the news on Banuelos and Williams is fairly recent, I figured it would make sense to take a look at how the injuries will affect their prospect status, and projected ascent through the minors.
Williams was recently sidelined with a tear in the labrum of his left (non-throwing) shoulder after diving to catch a ball in the outfield, and will miss the remainder of the season. Williams’ aggressive play in the outfield put him at risk of further shoulder dislocations if the tear was not repaired, so he went under the knife. Mason likely has several months of rehab ahead of him, though since the tear does not appear to be a very serious one, it is believed that he will be back in time for Spring Training in 2013.
The injury likely won’t affect Mason’s prospect status in any substantial way, as he should be fully healed by 2013, and showed his stuff over a strong 2012 season. He will still be a consensus top 50 prospect, and likely rank no lower than #2 in the Yankee system (depending on how bullish one is on Gary Sanchez). However, it could slightly slow down his timeline to the Majors. I think missing the last month or so of 2012 increases the likelihood that Mason begins 2013 in High-A Tampa rather than getting pushed to Double-A Trenton. My guess is that he spends 2013 between Tampa and Trenton, starts 2014 in Triple-A Scranton (making his Major League debut late in the season), and joins the Yankees outfield full-time in 2015 (barring a trade). Ultimately, it’s not a big difference unless you were expecting Williams to be in the outfield in 2014 (when the austerity budget kicks in), but it shouldn’t have much of an effect on his long-term value. The injury likely decreases his trade value in the offseason, so if you were hoping that the Yankees would deal Williams in a package for Justin Upton, you may be out of luck.
Yesterday, it was announced that Banuelos, who hasn’t pitched in nearly three months because of elbow and back injuries, was going to be shut down for the season. News like this often would ordinarily lead me to assume the worst, that the Mexican southpaw was facing imminent Tommy John Surgery. However, Mark Newman downplayed the severity of the injury, comparing it to a “bone bruise,” which leaves open the possibility that Banuelos could pitch in winter ball this year. He reportedly has been throwing, which likely indicates that he may not need surgery (assuming there aren’t any major setbacks). Either way, it has basically been a lost season for Banuelos, and he still has a lot of work to do to prove that he can hold up under a full starter’s workload.
The injury likely ensures that Banuelos will spend the vast majority of 2013 in the minor leagues. He hasn’t accumulated enough nnings for the Yankees to feel comfortable giving him a rotation spot, and he needs to prove that he can get his command back to where it was prior to 2011. Banuelos hasn’t exceeded 130 innings in any minor league season, so I imagine the Yankees will try to get him up to 150 or so next year, putting him on track to join the 2014 rotation if all goes well. If Banuelos were healthy in 2012, he could have made a push later this season to join the rotation, or at very least get the opportunity to earn a spot in Spring Training 2013. Banuelos probably would have been a top 50 prospect this year had he been healthy and effective, but his injury (validating the concerns of skeptics that a pitcher of Manny’s stature may not be durable) likely reduces his prospect status somewhat. He will still be one of the younger pitchers in the Triple-A International League next year, and has plenty of time to figure things out and become an effective major league pitcher.
There has been virtually no news on Campos and his mysterious elbow inflammation. The lack of news is always disconcerting, though it goes with the territory in the lower minors. However, if there isn’t any serious structural damage, Campos could come into 2013 fully healthy and in better shape, which could allow him to have a successful season and re-establish himself on the prospect map.
While these injuries may set back Williams and Banuelos’ timelines somewhat, neither of them are serious enough to merit worrying too much about their long-term future. While labrum injuries can be death for pitchers, the fact that Williams’ injury was reportedly not very severe, and on his non-throwing shoulder, bodes well for a complete recovery. As for Banuelos, the lack of structural damage in his elbow is encouraging, and assuming there are no other problems that we haven’t heard about yet, he should enter 2013 fully healed and ready to rock. The rehab process required to get Williams and Banuelos back to normal will be a test of their dedication and work ethic, but ultimately, they will have to overcome much bigger challenges if they want to become successful big league players.
Via Josh Norris, top prospect Mason Williams will have surgery to repair damage to his left (non-throwing) labrum today. He is done for the season and hopefully will be 100% for Spring Training. There were some hints yesterday that he was going to miss the rest of the year with a shoulder problem, but now we have confirmation. The Curse of the RAB Prospect Watch™ strikes again, eh?
Kevin Goldstein posted his midseason list of the top 50 prospects in baseball over at Baseball Prospectus today (subs. req’d), and Rangers SS Jurickson Profar predictably claimed the top spot. Royals OF Wil Myers and Orioles RHP Dylan Bundy round out the top three.
Two Yankees farmhands made the list, C Gary Sanchez at #23 and OF Mason Williams at #36. They ranked #40 and #99 on his preseason list, respectively. LHP Manny Banuelos was #29 on KG’s preseason list but predictably dropped out due to the elbow injury. OF Tyler Austin cracked the midseason top 50 lists of Baseball America and Keith Law, but Goldstein wasn’t having any of it.
Over at ESPN in an Insider-only blog post, former Yankees intern Kiley McDaniel penned a piece with scouting notes on several players with High-A Tampa. He wrote at length about OF Mason Williams — who he compared to Jacoby Ellsbury — and C Gary Sanchez, but also chimed in on OF Tyler Austin, RHP Jose Ramirez, RHP Mark Montgomery, and some other power arms on the staff. Pretty much the only negative thing he had to say was that Sanchez tends to struggle with fastballs in on his hands.
McDaniel praised scouting director Damon Oppenheimer for landing such quality prospects (Austin and the pitchers, specifically) with low-round draft picks, which is pretty neat. “Opposing clubs’ scouts covering this Tampa squad were simultaneously commending the Yankees for their deep staff and wondering why their teams didn’t draft these talents,” he wrote. Anyway, like I said go check it out. It gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation.
In an Insider-only blog post, Keith Law ranked baseball’s best prospects on contending teams in terms of their trade value. SS Jurickson Profar of the Rangers tops the list, followed by RHP Gerrit Cole of the Pirates and OF Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals. The Yankees didn’t place anyone in the top ten, but C Gary Sanchez and OF Mason Williams rank 13th and 15th, respectively. They would have ranked higher had it not been for the whole Single-A thing — kids at the upper levels have more trade value because they’re closer to contributing.
On the other side of the coin, Kevin Goldstein posted an article (Insider req’d) looking at prospects who have lost trade value this season. Both LHP Manny Banuelos and RHP Dellin Betances made the list thanks to their disappointing seasons, the former due to an elbow injury and the latter due to control problems. The Yankees are kinda stuck in trade bait limbo right now, with their top chips in the lower minors and their upper level chips struggling.
In an Insider-only piece, Keith Law published his midseason top 50 prospects list today. SS Jurickson Profar of the Rangers, who put on a show in the Futures Game by homering from the left side of the plate and singling from the right side, claimed the top spot to what should be no one’s surprise. RHP Dylan Bundy and SS Manny Machado, both of the Orioles, round out the top three. Some big things are happening in Baltimore.
The Yankees placed three players on the list, led by OF Mason Williams at #21. “He was recently promoted to High Class A after posting an .848 OPS in a half-season at Charleston,” wrote KLaw. “Williams earns a lot of raves from scouts between the tools and his general feel for the game, especially on defense.” Mason ranked 34th on Law’s preseason list, so he made a modest jump into the top 25. I’m not sure how much higher he can rank unless he taps into some hidden power at some point.
C Gary Sanchez wasn’t too far behind Williams at #28, and Law says he’s “improved markedly on defense to the point where you can picture him remaining behind the plate long term, and the bat should make him an MVP candidate if he does stay there.” Now that sure is good to hear, the defense has always been the long-term question with Sanchez. He doesn’t need to be a Gold Glover, just adequate. Law notes that Sanchez is primed for yet another jump up the rankings after making the leap from #55 in his preseason list.
The third Yankees farmhand to crack the top 50 is OF Tyler Austin at #45. “[He can] really hit, with a balanced swing and some pull power already, although when I caught him early this season, he was struggling a little to make adjustments to changing speeds, something that has improved in the last two-plus months,” said Law in his write-up. Austin was unranked in the preseason list and obviously made a huge jump thanks to his big full season league debut.
For comparison’s sake, Baseball America ranked Williams, Sanchez, and Austin as the 28th, 30th, and 39th best prospects in baseball in their recent midseason top 50 list, respectively. Good to see we have a bit of a consensus on where these three rank in terms of the bigger picture. LHP Manny Banuelos and several other injured pitchers were ineligible for Law’s list, but I confirmed with him that Manny would have cracked the top 50 if healthy. RHP Dellin Betances is healthy but obviously wasn’t close to the top 50, especially after ranking just 83rd before the season. Either way, three and potentially four top 50 guys is pretty darn good.
Baseball America published their midseason Top 50 Prospects list today, led by RHP Dylan Bundy of the Orioles. The best pitching prospect in the game owns a 1.74 ERA with 74 strikeouts and 13 walks in 62.2 innings down in Single-A this year. SS Jurickson Profar (Rangers) and OF Wil Myers (Royals) round out the top three. The list is free for all but the write-ups are subscriber-only.
The Yankees placed three prospects in the top 50: OF Mason Williams (#28), C Gary Sanchez (#30), and OF Tyler Austin (#39). LHP Manny Banuelos ranked 29th on the preseason Top 100 but fell out of the midseason list due to his elbow injury, though he was one of three players in the “Also Receiving Votes” section. Both Banuelos and RHP Jose Campos made the All Disabled List Team, unfortunately (subs. req’d). Williams (#85) and Sanchez (#81) made significant jumps from the preseason list, as did Austin, who was unranked this spring. The Yankees don’t have that surefire top-five prospect like Jesus Montero anymore, but three top-40 guys makes for a really strong top of the system.
Hitting leadoff for the prospect-laden Low-A Charleston squad, preseason number two prospect Mason Williams owns a stellar .308/.349/.496 batting line with a measly 9.7% strikeout rate in his first year in a full season league. Mike Newman of FanGraphs recently got a look at the 20-year-old center fielder and says he’s starting to turn his physical abilities into baseball skills. “As it stands, Williams is a surefire top-50 prospect this winter with a legitimate shot at ranking as the top prospect in the Yankees organization,” he wrote.
Newman notes that Williams is hard on himself — to the point where a coach had to intervene and help him refocus — and could do a better job defensively, but the skills are there for him to be an electric leadoff-type from the left side of the plate. Make sure you check it out, it’s a short and interesting read. Here are Newman’s posts on Angelo Gumbs, Tyler Austin, and Gary Sanchez.
It’s only late-May, but Keith Law posted an updated list of the top 25 prospects in the minors today (subs. req’d). RHP Dylan Bundy of the Orioles claims the top spot with OF Bryce Harper now in the big leagues, and Baltimore also owns the number three prospect in SS Manny Machado. SS Jurickson Profar of the Rangers is sandwiched between them at number two.
OF Mason Williams check in at #24, up ten spots from KLaw’s preseason ranking. “He’s not walking, but he’s also making a ton of contact, and he’s barely begun to fill out physically,” he wrote. “There’s a lot of projection involved in this ranking but he’s a favorite of many scouts (and of me) because of the substantial upside here.” LHP Manny Banuelos was ineligible for the list because he’s on the DL, but I confirmed with Law that he would have made the top 25 as well. He ranked 23rd on the preseason list.
The minor league season is roughly six weeks old, about a quarter of the way through the 140-game schedule for the four full season leagues. Almost every high-upside position player prospect in the Yankees’ system is playing for Low-A Charleston at the moment, and they’re all raking. Tyler Austin has more homers (12) than any non-Curtis Granderson player in the organization, Gary Sanchez owns a .333/.380/.483 batting line as a 19-year-old, and Dante Bichette Jr. is in the middle of a hot streak (hitting .367 in his last eight games) after a slow start.
Then there’s Mason Williams, the team’s top position player prospect coming into the season in my opinion. As you can see in the sidebar, he’s produced a .366 wOBA in 141 plate appearances this year, flashing both power (14 extra-base hits) and speed (12 steals). As impressive as those numbers are, his strikeout and walk rates are eye-popping. Williams has only struck out six times in those 141 plate appearances, a hilariously low 4.3 K%*. His eight walks result in a 5.7 BB%, meaning he’s put the ball in play in nine out of ten plate appearances this year. That’s just out of this world.
* Furthermore, two of those strikeouts came in consecutive plate appearances against Dylan Bundy a few weeks ago, arguably the best pitching prospect in the world right now. Against mere mortals, his strikeout rate is 2.9%. Ridiculous.
I bring this up because sometime in the near future, we’re going to see some prospects get midseason promotions to the next level. Some promotions are more exciting than others but they all indicate some kind of progress. Sanchez will surely get bumped to High-A Tampa because he’s repeating Low-A, just as an example.
Most players drafted out of high school will spend a full year at each level, at least in the lower minors when they’re first cutting their teeth. Obviously there is the occasional Justin Upton-esque exception, but a full year at each level is a decent rule of thumb. Williams came into this season with 317 short season plate appearances and added those 141 plate appearances this year, which amount to 458 career plate appearances. About a hundred short of a full season’s worth. That said, I think Mason’s absurd strikeout and walk rates are an indication that he’s ready for the next level.
Simply put, Williams is not having trouble getting the bat on the ball. Keith Law confirmed Mason’s more aggressive approach (compared to last season) when he saw him last month, and those low strikeout and walk rates indicate that he’s putting the ball in play early in the count. The lack of walks isn’t the result of an inability to recognize balls and strikes, Williams is just putting the ball in play before he sees four balls. Based on the results, it’s hard to complain. That’s why I think a promotion to High-A is worthwhile this summer; he’ll have a chance to face better pitching and continue developing his approach at the plate. It’s tough to get comfortable in deep counts or work on a two-strike approach if you can put the ball in play at will.
Development is not usually something we can accurately measure with statistics, but we rely on them because as outsiders, that’s all we have. We don’t get to see how these kids react to breaking balls or use their changeup in a fastball counts on an everyday basis, so there’s always going to be an element of the unknown for us. Frankly, it’s a pretty significantly sized element of unknown. From here though, it looks like Williams could benefit from a promotion to High-A despite his relatively short stint with the River Dogs.