The Philadelphia Phillies have one of the most improved minor league systems in baseball and look for a major bounce-back from a top prospect in that system.
The Philadelphia Phillies have one of the most improved minor league systems in all of baseball over the last couple of years.
Astute recent draft choices of players such as J.P. Crawford, Aaron Nola, and Mickey Moniak have certainly helped elevate the club’s minor league prospect talent level.
However, a few big trades have also done wonders for improving that talent. One of the most important of those was the 2015 trade deadline deal with the Texas Rangers.
In that trade, the Phils sent ace Cole Hamels and lefty reliever Jake Diekmanto Texas in exchange for a six-player package of pitcher Matt Harrison and prospects Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff, Alec Asher, Jorge Alfaro, and Nick Williams.
Those prospects have quickly begun to pay off with the Phillies. For instance, Eickhoff has become perhaps the most reliable member of the team’s starting rotation.
Asher had a nice bounce back season this year, and did well in a second go-around with the Phillies. Meanwhile, both Thompson and Alfaro made their big league debuts. Each is a big piece in the Phils future.
Of the group, Williams was the only one to experience a disappointing 2016 season.
The outfielder hit for just a .258/.287/.427 slash line with 13 homers, 64 RBI, and 78 runs scored this year.
Those raw numbers are a bit disappointing for a player who is widely considered among the team’s top three prospects. But it is also important to remember that Williams played the entire season at age 22 at the AAA level.
Just last week, Ryan Lawrence at phillyvoice.com quoted Phillies former World Series winning manager and respected hitting evaluator Charlie Manuel on Williams:
“Nick Williams has all the talent in the world. When I saw him he was hitting around .290, had some home runs. But in the league he was in, his talent was just getting him by. He needs to be more selective at the plate, needs to work the count. Get in good counts to hit. He’s got as much talent as any of them.”
Williams’ overall production numbers were actually not far off from his minor league career norms to this point. His average and on-base percentage were the big drop-offs.
There is every chance that Williams simply needed that year of facing more quality, experienced pitching. Coming out in 2017 and making adjustments based on what he learned could get him right back on track.
That track would be a fast one to Philadelphia. Williams turned 23 years old in September, and will come to spring training ready to start making his move on a big league role.
While it is likely that Williams begins that 2017 season back with AAA Lehigh Valley, the Phillies have to be hoping that a full bounce back from Williams is in the offing.
If he does show that improved discipline, selectivity, and maturity we could see him at Citizens Bank Park no later than the early part of the summer.