After three months of suffering, Phillies fans finally have something to look forward to: Nick Williams is getting called up to the Big Leagues.
The 23-year-old outfielder has been solid in his second full season with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, hitting .280/.328/.511 with 16 2B, 15 HR, and 44 RBIs in 78 games. The number 4 ranked Phillies prospect has had some ups and downs in Lehigh Valley dating back to last season. The left hander had a miserable last two months of 2016 and avoided a September call up after hitting just .168 with 42 Ks and only walking twice in July, August, and September combined.
The biggest issue that has plagued Williams for most of his career was his plate discipline and pitch recognition. He swings at lots of pitches, and struggles to recognizes balls and strikes. Fangraph’s Eric Logenhagen echoes this sentiment;
“I considered his approach to be fatal, and I still do to a degree, but he’s an incredible talent. Williams has 70 bat speed, great hand-eye and impressive bat control. He has the raw physical tools to be at least a plus hitter, but his output is cannibalized by the most overaggressive approach in all of baseball. There’s enough natural leverage in his swing to produce power, too.”
That has also been a topic of conversation among the Phillies, and broadcaster-turned-hitting-coach Matt Stairs worked with Williams throughout spring training. Stairs worked on softening Williams’ leg kick landing, much like Aaron Judge did last year, and also on recognizing pitches in batting practice.
This is a great swing from Williams that showcases how quick his hands are in terms of generating power and how balanced his swing has become as opposed to last year.
The only bleak spot in 2017 is his being benched for lack of hustle on a fly ball that was dropped and a knocked-down line drive to the pitcher. The Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan also stated that Williams’ attitude needed improvement (via Philly.com). It’s not necessarily a big deal for a rising rookie who has to prove himself, although it raises concerns considering Pete Mackanin has not dealt well with Odubel Herrera and his disregard for coaching which has cost the Phillies runs.
Having a prospect who needs to fix his attitude and a manager who hasn’t sent a clear message to an undisciplined player is not a good combination, and may cause issues long term.
For now, it is a breath of fresh air for the Phillies and their fans, who haven’t had much to be optimistic about. Williams still has to work on pitch recognition and it may plague him as he starts his Philadelphia career, but his exciting pop and speed will be enjoyable to watch. All fans can hope for is some production that gives hope for the future.