When the 2017 Minor League Baseball season gets going in early April, keep a close eye on Philadelphia Phillies outfield prospect Nick Williams.
Following his rather disappointing 2016 campaign in Triple=A, Williams ranked eighth on the pre-season Minor League Ball 2017 Phillies Top 20 prospects list, with the following comment:
8) Nick Williams, OF, Grade B-: Age 23, acquired from Rangers in Hamels deal; hit .258/.287/.427 with 13 homers, 19 walks, 136 strikeouts in 497 at-bats in Triple-A; continues to stand out for power/speed potential but his first look in Triple-A was disappointing due to an extremely over-aggressive approach; still trying to develop the instincts to make his undoubted tools manifest more often on the field; could be a star, but could also turn into Domonic Brown. ETA late 2017.
Williams saw 28 at-bats with the Phillies this spring, hitting .286/.375/.429 with four walks and seven strikeouts. He was sent to minor league camp a few days ago.
It is important not to get overly excited about spring training stats of course, but the signs here are positive. According to Matt Gelb at Philly.com, Williams worked closely with coach Matt Stairs on improving his selectivity at the plate:
"I'm starting to see pitches a lot better," Williams said. "That's unbelievable. ... Sometimes I smirk on the first pitch, it's offspeed, and I can take it."
Stairs did not alter much of Williams' swing; he just wanted Williams to better control his movement. It became a daily topic of conversation.
"He planted it in my head," Williams said.
There has never been any question about Williams’ physical talent; it has always been a matter of approach. If the changes this spring stick in the regular season, he could reach the majors quickly.