The Rays have a tremendous number of high-quality prospects in their system. We at RCG are bringing you an in-depth look at those we consider to be the Top 50.
While gathering as much information as possible from various sources, we’re going to put it all together for your enjoyment and raise the bar on what you expect from a prospect knowledgable site. Stay tuned, check-in often, and please let us know how we’re doing.
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Being such a lengthy process, some encouragement will go a very long way. We hope you’ll enjoy reading this series as much as we enjoy putting it together. If anything, all of us will know that much more about the quality of the Rays system.
The rankings will be based on all aspects of each prospect, but will focus first on how likely the player is to make an impact in MLB, and ceiling next.
Once completed, the Top 50 will be updated mid-season with an explanation to why they’re moving up or down, and the entire process will be repeated each season.
The third player to be examined in detail is….
#20: Justin Williams, OF, 20 years old
- Bats: Left Ht/Wt: 6’2″ 215 lbs
- Drafted: as a SS by ARZ in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft out of Terrebonne HS, LA
- Acquired: in return for Jeremy Hellickson in November, 2014
- Signed for: $1,050,000
- 2015 Affiliate: A+ Charlotte (-3.6 yrs younger than avg)
- Anticipated MLB Arrival: 2018+
Winter Ball Stats in Australia: .415/.500/.634 with 2 HRs, 3 doubles, 8 RBI, 5 BB and 3 SB
- Committed to LSU before being drafted.
- There’s a nice picture of him with his family as he signs with LSU here.
- His signing with LSU was huge for them as he was ranked 3rd nationally by Perfect Game at the time.
- On signing with LSU, Williams stated that: “It’s a big honor. I’ve wanted to play for my home state team since I watched them on TV growing up. It’s a dream come true.” and added “I’ll be at LSU,” Williams said. “I want to get an education and earn my degree.”. A few months later and for over $1 million, he was officially a Diamondback.
- Was thought to be a sure-fire 1st rd pick but tailed off after a slow spring in 2013.
- The following rankings show the range people had him going in: Keith Law (15), Baseball America (35), MLB.com (19), Minor League Ball (28).
- Was the Rawlings Home Run Derby Champion in 2012. “After hitting nine home runs in the first round of the Challenge, Justin Williams hit four more in the finals to win the challenge.” He also managed a hit and a walk in the game.
- Made the 2013 Rawlings All American 1st Team
- Nick Ciuffo, Riley Unroe, Bralin Jackson and Maxx Tissenbaum are also playing with him in Australia this winter
Was ranked 13th by Minor League Ball’s John Sickels in 2014, when he received a C+ mark, with John stating this about Williams:
"“Second round pick from Louisiana high school hit .351/.397/.452 in pro debut and finished in Low-A despite pre-draft reports that he was very raw. Walk rate was quite low and he somehow fielded .883 as an outfielder, but he raked. Has flaws but considerable potential as well.”"
Moved up to #11 on the Rays list in 2015, with Sickels upgrading the grade to B-, stating the following:
"“Hitting .284/.308/.413 with seven homers, 13 walks, 76 strikeouts in 387 at-bats in Low-A, just 19 years old. I’d like a better BB/K/PA but reports continue to emphasize long-term offensive potential, raw power.”"
Williams is working hard halfway around the world playing winter ball in Australia. This is a great quote from him about the experience:
"“My main focus in Australia is just getting better overall as a baseball player,” Williams said. “Offensively, defensively, and baserunning. As of now my biggest strength is my offense. My defense is getting better but by the time I make it to the big leagues I want to be an all-around player … Being here is really going to benefit me. They want me to come here and get more at-bats, more baseball and just get better.”"
Best Tools & Abilities
- Hitting Ability is well above-average
- Raw Power is developing
- Improving defensive abilities
- Hitting 50/55 | Power 55/65 | Speed 45/45 |Defense 40/45 | Arm 50/55
Williams has been beat up pretty badly by most rankings analysts and perhaps they’re being too hard on him. It seems to me that sometimes they give players too much credit, and some times they give them too much.
For Williams, I lean towards too little credit because they keep understating how far his hitting ability will take him. They pick on his ability to read offspeed pitching and predict that he’ll falter against better pitching. If that were to happen, it definitely would deflate his value to below-average.
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However, there’s reason to hope for a better turnout.
First, in 2015, he hit .279 against RHP and .270 against LHP, so we know he can handle both sides fairly well. Second, he hit .293/.333/.414 with RISP, an encouraging statistic for him as a run driver. And finally, from June onwards he hit .337, .324, .194, and .294.
The sole blip on that stretch was immediately following his promotion to HiA, but once he settled in he got going again. The ability to make adjustments is a testament to both his hitting ability and mental ability.
That’s why most may have under-estimated his overall potential, he’s adapted to each situation so far. I certainly don’t expect that to change any time soon, and as we saw for so many years with Manny Ramirez, hitting alone can carry you pretty far in MLB. Teams will put up with some pretty questionable defensive play to get a great bat in the lineup.
With at least half the season in HiA ahead of him, Williams will be evaluated on how well he has rounded out his game over the winter. Improved defensive play would go a long way to getting him closer to the majors, and getting his power to translate into games would also get his status raised.
Ultimately, we don’t expect his hitting will drop off and we’re going to look for the other two items on our list to improve. If they do, he could get a quick move up to AA by the end of the season. If not, he’ll get as much time as he needs in HiA to get it all sorted out. With his makeup and willingness to put in the work, they should be able to get him up to speed effectively. Whether it means 2016 or 2017, it should be well-worth the wait.
Williams’s hitting abilities match those we see well within our Top 10. There’s no question that his bat also has the power he needs to make his mark. If he can improve in other areas, we’re going to see something special by the end of the season and heading into 2017. Of all the players in the 20+ of our rankings, he could make the biggest jump in 2017.
Keep an eye on Williams in 2016. He’s going to be a part of a great team that will be looking to repeat and will get a chance to prove he should be at the top of the OF rankings within the Rays system.