Archive for Mason Williams
Last week I asked you to vote for this season’s Prospect Watch, and nearly 3,300 responses later, we have our answer. Low-A Charleston center fielder Mason Williams received 31% of the vote and will have his season tracked and highlighted in our sidebar. Last year’s Prospect Watch prospect — Manny Banuelos — finished second with 27%. Gary Sanchez was a distant third at 17%.
Williams, 20, hit .349/.395/.468 with 28 steals in 298 plate appearances for Short Season Staten Island in 2011. I ranked him as the club’s second best prospect before the start of Spring Training while Keith Law (#34), Baseball America (#85), and Kevin Goldstein (#99) all consider him one of the game’s 100 best prospects. Williams is a contact-oriented speed guy, so I wouldn’t expect a ton of homers this summer. Double-digits would be a pleasant surprise. The minor league season starts tonight, and I think we’re all hoping Mason raises some hell right away.
If you’ve been reading RAB long enough, you’re well aware of our annual Prospect Watch. The idea is simple. We pick a prospect, and throughout the regular season we track his progress in the sidebar, specifically his most recent (i.e. last game) and overall season performance. Past Prospect Watch subjects include Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Andrew Brackman, Jesus Montero, and last year, Manny Banuelos. Needless to say, some years have been better than others.
Rather than just pick a prospect and run with it this year, we’re going to try to something new. For the first time ever, you folks will be able to pick our 2012 Prospect Watch candidate by voting in the poll at the end of the post. As you can tell from our previous watches, we’re looking for star power here. Solid and consistent is nice and all, but the Prospect Watch is all about holy crap performances. The occasional 4-for-5 with two doubles and a homer out of Montero made all the 0-for-4 with two strikeouts worth it.
I’ve taken the liberty of picking five candidates for this year’s prospect watch, all of whom are among the team’s seven best prospects. They’re all slated to spend the season in a full season league as well, which is key. With all due respect to Ravel Santana, no one feels like waiting until the NY-Penn League season kicks off in late-June for the Prospect Watch to go up. Here are those five candidates, listed alphabetically with a short little blurb…
Manny Banuelos, LHP
We’ve never had a two-time Prospect Watcher, but I’m not opposed to idea at all. That’s just the way things shook out in the past. Armed with a new cutter, Banuelos is scheduled to start the year with Triple-A Scranton and is poised to join Joba as the only player to go from RAB Prospect Watch to the big leagues in the same season.
Dante Bichette Jr., 3B
The Yankees first round pick just last season, Bichette took home Rookie Level Gulf Coast League MVP honors last year and will start his first full pro season with the Low-A Charleston River Dogs. He’s an all-around hitter with patience and power, capable of long hit streaks and long homers.
Jose Campos, RHP
Acquired from the Mariners as part of the Montero-Michael Pineda swap, Campos destroyed the Short Season Northwest League last year and will join Bichette in Charleston. His big fastball and surprisingly excellent command should lead to a ton of performances DIPS disciplines will love. That means lots of strikeouts and few walks.
Gary Sanchez, C
With Montero gone, Sanchez is now the best hitter in the organization. Last year with Charleston he hit the same number of homers (17) as Montero did at the same level in 2007, just in 226 fewer plate appearances. Sanchez could spend the first few weeks of the season back with the River Dogs, but a trip up to High-A Tampa seems inevitable at some point this summer.
Mason Williams, CF
Williams isn’t just another cog in what figures to be a dynamite Low-A lineup in 2012, he’s going to set the table and bat leadoff. His huge showing with Staten Island last season vaulted him up prospect lists, and now he’s the Yankees best all-around position player prospect.
* * *
The minor league seasons begins next Thursday, the day before the Yankees open their 2012 regular season in Tampa. The poll will remain open through the weekend. Thanks in advance.
I return from Arizona with links, minor league links…
- Marc Hulet of FanGraphs posted his list of the top 100 prospects in baseball today, and four Yankees farmhands made the cut: Manny Banuelos (#38), Jose Campos (#65), Dellin Betances (#68), and Mason Williams (#98). Bit surprising to see Campos ranked so highly, but I have a hard time believing their are 100 better prospects than Gary Sanchez out there. He’s got too much talent to ignore, and not everyone on that list is a choir boy.
- VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman told Josh Norris that “injuries have taken their toll” on Bradley Suttle, and he’s not in camp at the moment. The team doesn’t know if he’s going to quit baseball or just take a hiatus. Suttle signed for $1.3M as a fourth round pick in 2007 soon after Baseball America (subs. req’d) called him the best pure college hitter in the draft class. He’s battled shoulder problems (with multiple surgeries) and has hit .256/.334/.417 in nearly 1,400 minor league plate appearances.
- The Yankees added three international players this offseason: LHP Rigoberto Arrebato, RHP Pedro Guerra, and RHP Giovanny Gallegos. Norris has a little something on each player, and it seems like Gallegos is the only one worth watching. The team has a knack for finding talent in Mexico.
- And finally, the Yankees released Jamie Mallard according to Matt Eddy. They signed the husky slugger last summer after he’d hit .291/.357/.457 in a handful of rookie ball plate appearances with the Angels, but he never played a game in the Yankees’ system. Mallard is listed at 6-foot-0 and 265 lbs.
The third of the big three top 100(-ish) prospects lists was published today, with Baseball America revealing their rankings of the game’s very best future big leaguers. The list is free for all, you don’t need a subscription. Bryce Harper claims the top spot, followed by Matt Moore and Mike Trout. Those three have consistently been ranked as baseball’s three best prospects this offseason, just not always in the same order. Number four is Yu Darvish, who I don’t consider a prospect given those 1,200+ innings he threw overseas.
Anyway, Manny Banuelos leads all Yankees’ farmhands at #29, which is right where Keith Law (#23) and Kevin Goldstein (#29) had him. Hooray for consensus. Dellin Betances is ranked #63, Gary Sanchez #81, and Mason Williams #85. Opinions on the club’s second, third, and fourth best prospects are pretty split, both in their rankings within the system and through the game. All four are considered legitimate top 100 guys though, and that’s better than most.
The Yankees were one of 13 teams with at least four players to make the top 100, but they were one of only three teams to originally sign six players on the list. Jesus Montero ranks #6 behind Harper, Moore, Trout, Darvish, and Julio Teheran while Arodys Vizcaino is a little further down at #40. The Cardinals and Rangers are the only other clubs to originally sign six top 100 prospects, but again they’re counting Darvish as a prospect. Former Yankees’ first round pick Gerrit Cole is #12.
Since we’re in prospect mode, I’m going to point you towards Jason Parks’ article about what could go wrong for each of the Yankees’ top five prospects. It’s part of his series taking a pessimistic look at each club’s best farmhands, a little dose of reality to temper expectations in prospect fantasyland. You do need a subscription to read the entire thing, but non-subscribers will still be able to read the Sanchez and Banuelos write-ups. Much to my surprise, he considers Angelo Gumbs the team’s fifth best prospect. “My eyes told me Gumbs had star potential, a future you don’t often envision when watching short-season baseball,” he wrote. “I’m probably a few years too early with this ranking, and I understand if people wish to question my sanity.”
While I don’t bother with a top 100 list, I did rank the Yankees’ top 30 prospects last Friday. So check that out, in case you missed it. Even if you didn’t, go read it again. If you’re yearning for more prospect knowledge, you can participate in BA’s free top 100 chat later this afternoon (2pm ET).
Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein published his list of the top 101 prospects in baseball today, with Matt Moore beating out Bryce Harper and Mike Trout for the top spot. You don’t need a subscription to read the piece, it’s free for everyone. Four Yankees made the list, and I’m willing to bet you can guess who they are. Manny Banuelos came it at #29, Gary Sanchez at #40, Dellin Betances at #63, and Mason Williams at #99. Our former lord and savior Jesus Montero is number seven. Keith Law posted his top 100 list last week, if you want to compare the two.
Spring prospect season is in full swing, starting yesterday with Keith Law’s organizational rankings. It continued today with his list of the game’s top 100 prospects (1-25, 26-50, 51-75, 76-100) and top ten prospects by team (all Insider req’d). The Yankees placed four in the top 100, which was unsurprisingly topped by Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Matt Moore. Manny Banuelos checks in at #23 (down from #12 last year), Mason Williams at #34, Gary Sanchez at #55, and Dellin Betances at #83. Jesus Montero is ranked ninth, one spot ahead of another old pal, Gerrit Cole.
“When he’s right, he’ll show an above-average fastball at 90-94 mph (but was a tick below that in 2011), an above-average to plus changeup and a solid-average curveball with good two-plane break,” said KLaw about Banuelos, while noting that his trademark command was off last season. “Everything still points to Banuelos commanding the ball in the long term as he did before 2011, and much of the disappointment in his season is a function of our high expectations for him. He still projects as a solid No. 2, assuming his previous level of command returns.”
Williams’ ranking was a bit surprising, but in a good way. I’m pretty sure you won’t see him that high anywhere else this year. “[The] most impressive part of [Williams'] game in 2011 was the quality of his at bats, which improved over the course of the summer,” said Law. “[He's] barely begun to scratch the surface of his ability.” The biggest thing for Williams going forward is his size, not necessarily his tools. He just needs to bulk up and add some muscle to avoid having the bat knocked out of his hands by high-end fastballs at the upper levels.
The preseason hype machine was out of control with Sanchez last year, which is why it’s easy to think he had a disappointing season with Low-A Charleston. The attitude problems were disappointing, but the power and production certainly weren’t. “Sanchez’s first full year in pro ball had major positives and negatives — the bat is more advanced than anyone thought, and the glove is less so,” Law said. “He can really hit with present above-average power and projects to hit 30 to 35 homers a year down the road, having demonstrated a solid approach for an 18-year-old in full-season ball … He could be a star.”
Last but not least is Betances, who continues to look more and more like a reliever because he hasn’t improved his command at all in five years as a pro. “He’ll pitch in the low 90s but runs it up to 97 mph and would likely sit 94-97, if not better, in relief,” said KLaw, adding that his curveball and delivery are inconsistent. The latter contributes to his strike-throwing problem. “He’s 23 now, still not very experienced, but he has size and velocity you can’t teach. The lack of progress and athleticism make a bullpen role more likely than a spot in the top half of a rotation.”
Those four top Law’s list of the top ten Yankees prospects, followed by a surprising name at number five: Tyler Austin. There’s no write-up, but I have to think he believes in the bat and thinks Austin can stay at third base long-term to warrant a ranking that high. Jose Campos, Dante Bichette Jr., Austin Romine, J.R. Murphy, and Slade Heathcott round out the top ten. Ravel Santana is a top ten guy based on talent, but I have no problem with leaving him out given that devastating ankle injury. Law also published a list of ten prospects who just missed the Top 100 (Insider req’d), but no Yankees farmhands made the list. Just as a heads up, my Top 30 Prospects List is coming out next Friday, so hooray for that.
Update: ESPN NY has the full player comments for Banuelos, Williams, Sanchez, and Betances for free, so head over there to check them out.
Via Jon Heyman, the Mariners inquired about the availability of Mason Williams while discussing Michael Pineda with the Yankees earlier this offseason. Heyman also hears that Williams is drawing raves throughout the game, but that’s nothing new really. I have no problem with trading prospects who have yet to sniff full season ball, but there’s no way they could have done both Jesus Montero and Williams in the same package without getting Felix Hernandez back. I suspect we’re going to hear about many teams asking for Mason in the coming years.
Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com published his list of baseball’s top 100 prospects yesterday, with Matt Moore, Bryce Harper, and Mike Trout unsurprisingly occupying the top three spots. Manny Banuelos ranks 13th, one spot behind Jesus Montero. I coulda sworn those positions were reversed last night and Banuelos was in front of Montero, but I guess I’m just going crazy. Dellin Betances is #41, Gary Sanchez is #53, and Mason Williams is #73. Mayo’s rankings always seem to buck the consensus a bit, which I like. Prospect ranking isn’t a perfect science.
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.
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.
You may have missed them over the holiday weekend, but Josh Norris published a series of short posts with quotes from scouts about various Yankees’ prospects. Among the players covered are system headliners Jesus Montero (“He might be Miguel Cabrera”), Manny Banuelos (“I think he’s the real deal”), Mason Williams (“an above-average major league center field profile”), and Dellin Betances (“he’s going to be a bullpen guy”). Corban Joseph, Angelo Gumbs, Cito Culver, Branden Pinder, and personal fave Bryan Mitchell were covered as well, and Norris also posted an interview with Adam Warren. They’re all quick reads and get RAB’s highest level of recommendation, so check ‘em out.