SDI Prospect Rankings: #6 Nick Williams

When the Rangers drafted Billy Nicholas Williams in the second round straight out of high school in 2012, he seemed to fit right in with their recent history of farm talent, which is a very toolsy athlete with high upside that may not make it due to approach.  You won’t find many prospects in baseball with a hit tool that Nick possesses, and boy can he hit the baseball. He literally lives by the motto of “see the ball, hit the ball”. Scouts describe him being lightning quick with his hands and ability to barrel up the ball. Needless to say, SDI’s 6th ranked player on our countdown is one to be excited about.

#10 Ryan Rua
#9 Luke Jackson
#8 Lewis Brinson
#7 Luis Ortiz

Nick was born in the Galveston, TX area and attended Ball High School in Galveston. I imagine he had a hard time comprehending that he shouldn’t swing or destroy any school property since he is trained to attack and destroy the ball. This natural left hander checks in at 6’3 195 pounds and has drawn comparisons from the likes of Carlos Gonzalez to Ken Griffey Jr. Okay, that last one is probably really silly, but with the sweet left handed swing and quick hands, it isn’t all that crazy to at least consider it. With his current frame and age, he still has time to fill out and likely pack on some more good weight, which could be pretty scary.

Williams can be described as a four-tool player due primarily due to his fringy throwing arm. Not to say that his arm is really bad, (it’s not Coco Crisp bad) he just won’t be gunning down runners like your favorite Martin in centerfield does every other night at the Ballpark. The hitting tool is what I could spend the rest of this piece about. He just has ultra quick hands resulting in bat speed that makes me blush. He is able to adjust the plane of his bat well enough to pitches in the zone. He has a bit of an upper cut to his swing, which allows him to generate backspin and lift balls lower around his knees. CJ Wittman of Baseball Prospectus put a future grade of 70 on it to give you an idea of what it could be. In Wittman’s scouting report from May of 2014 he said, “Williams is going to hit. This was easily the best natural hitter I’ve seen live.”

So while the hit tool is fantastic, unfortunately for Nick, his approach at the plate is not. In 255 games, Williams has walked just 53 times in his minor league career thus far. That’s good for about three percent of the time, putting him in Ben Revere territory. Lack of discipline also means lots of strikeouts and along with his other Hickory brothers in 2013, Williams struck out a whopping 110 times in 404 plate appearances in the Sally League. While he can indeed hit the ball, unless he cleans up his approach as he advances in level, pitchers will abuse him.

Nick’s power can be pretty sneaky, and could be a plus tool that sees him hitting for a bunch of doubles and double-digit homers. I have seen several videos of him cranking out some bombs at Myrtle Beach. He did finish second in the Carolina League in slugging (.491) in 2014 trailing only teammate Joey Gallo.

The area that Nick also struggles is in the field. He will consistently take some bad routes and angles to the ball and since he doesn’t have elite speed to make up for it, it can hurt him. He’s played center field, but his average speed mixed with shoddy defense likely will see him move and stick at left field since his arm isn’t strong enough for right. He is athletic, but it just isn’t clicking with his approach to defense yet. He may just not read the ball off the bat well enough. He can make the routine play, while also making ordinary plays appear difficult. He also will need to really be coached up on smart base running. While his average speed could play for double digit steals, it’s the ability to take the extra base that he must master.

Nick’s got a true love for the game, and a desire to be the best. It’s a bit of an old school style. His make up shows it as he wears his emotions on his sleeve. From taking forever to get back to the dugout after a strikeout, to an obstinance in wanting to change his approach at the plate. Some say it gets blown out of proportion, and others say it could be an issue. When talks of Texas being involved in trade talks with big name players like Cole Hamels, you don’t hear Williams’ name mentioned among the prospects that the other clubs are looking at. Could be that Texas either really likes him, or other teams don’t. With the abundance of top outfield prospects that this club possesses, it’s a bit puzzling.

Nick should begin 2015 in Frisco where he struggled for the final 15 games to close his 2014 campaign. It’s possible that they send him to High Desert if he struggles, or posts 30 percent+ strikeout rates. Otherwise, his bat should help form one of the best minor league lineups in all of professional baseball at Frisco. Once again, I will remind you if you have a chance to see Nick and the gang, then do it. Pack up the car, head up the tollway, find a spot in the outfield for the kids, and plant yourself behind home plate. You may even see me out there chatting it up with the scouts (there will be several of those).

Nick’s plus-plus hit tool could have him up in Arlington as early as 2016. He may not be a first division player, but he could very well be a major league regular with his bat. Baseball America had him ranked as the team’s third best prospect and 97th overall to close the 2013 season, and was recently ranked 71st in the BP 101 to begin 2015. As long as he keeps hitting, the club will keep on testing him. It may take failure for him to realize it would be prudent to change his approach, but not walking works for Adam Jones and he’s a multi time All Star with a career walk rate of four percent.

Austin Dietz
I'm just a local Dallas kid that enjoys baseball, craft beer, and using my best hitter second. I'm a co-host of the 20 Grade Podcast.

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