The most important part of the catcher position is defense. Catchers who play great defense can make the big leagues in backup roles even if they don’t hit well at all. But the ideal is a catcher who can do it all, defensively and offensively. On the surface, the Rays’ are going for a player with the upside of a defense-oriented backup catcher with their selection of Michael Williams. But the Rays are seeing if they can get a little more than that.
Williams, a 6’2″, 210 senior catcher out of the University of Kentucky, has become relatively well known for his defense. In 58 starts at catcher in 2012, Williams made just one error. Williams owns a strong and accurate arm, and he moves well defensively behind the plate. He has the ability to be a good defensive catcher. The interesting thing with him is his offense.
In 2012 for the Wildcats, Williams posted a .290/.360/.379 line with 10 doubles, 3 homers, and 36 RBI. He struck out 48 times compared to just 20 walks. He also had 5 sac bunts. Williams certainly is not an elite offensively player or anywhere close to that. But he has shown flashes for a long time. He has always had strong wrists and shown some solid bat speed with a compact swing. Far too often, Williams is primarily a groundball and soft line drive hitter. But on a few occasions he has gotten hot and started utilizing his strength to drive the ball for extra-base hits and even home runs. Williams features a stance with just a short stride, which may be a major reason for his struggles. The Rays could try to open up Williams’ stance more and see if they can get some power out of him. His defense is great, and some power would give him a great backup profile and maybe something clicks for Williams with is overall hitting ability. Williams is not exactly an upside pick. He’s likely a backup catcher at best. But the Rays always like to leave the door open for some amount of potential and Williams brings that to the table.