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Rays Top 50 Prospects: No. 7, Justin Williams

Minor League Baseball: Arizona Fall League-Scottsdale Scorpions at Peoria Javelinas Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays traded for the next two prospects on our list. In this case, they landed a young talented outfielder who’s just about MLB ready.

No.7, OF Justin Paul Williams, 22 yrs old

Born: August 20th, 1995 in Houma, LA

Height/Weight: 6’2” 215 lbs Bats/Throws: L/R

Signed: by the DBacks after being selected in the 2nd rd of the 2013 draft

Twitter handle: NA

Twitter profile statement: NA

Baseball America Rankings

  • Ranked as the 14th best DBacks prospect post-2013
  • Ranked as the 14th best Rays prospect post-2014
  • Ranked as the 17th best Rays prospect post-2015
  • Ranked as the 9th best Rays prospect post-2016
  • Ranked as the 19th best prospect in the Florida State League post-2016
  • Ranked as the 8th Rays prospect post-2017
  • Ranked as the 16th best prospect in the Southern League post-2017

DRB Writers ranking

  • High: 5th
  • Low: 20th

Justin Williams: Abilities

  • Developing power
  • Above-average hitting and on-base abilities
  • Solid arm and range

Grades for ‘18 (Pipeline): Hit: 55 | Pwr: 50 | Run: 45 | Arm: 50 | Fld: 50 | Overall: 50

  • Abilities notes: He may never win a gold glove in the outfield but Williams projects to be an effective right-fielder. Of note in his case is his willingness to go the extra mile to get playing time and opportunity to hone his craft. Whatever skills he has, he’s likely to make the most of them.

Joined the Rays by way of....

Trade, on November 14th 2014. “Tampa Bay Rays traded RHP Jeremy Hellickson to Arizona Diamondbacks for SS Andrew Velazquez and OF Justin Williams.”

Scott Grauer wrote up the trade at the time, with the noted 40 grade on Williams’ hit tool at the time, something he’s improved a great deal since then.

Latest Transaction: optioned to Durham Bulls March 11th, 2018.

Facts, Honors, and Awards

  • Williams is one of the many guys the Rays have passed through the Australian Baseball League (2015-16 in his case). He finished his time there with a line of .342/.398/.582, 10 HR, and 8 SB.
  • While his time in the ABL was great, it was the improvements he showed thereafter that stand out. He went from .277/.298/.394 in 2015 (LoA/HiA) to .295/.318/.447 in 2016 (HiA/AA).
  • And just for good measure, Williams was not going to take the next off season off either, continuing the hard work with a great showing in the AFL in 2016, as noted by the following,

“They mix up pitches a lot better, and once they get you out a certain way, they are going to keep doing it until you prove them otherwise. I’ve seen guys throw very good 1-0 breaking balls, and 1-0 changeups, and that’s when it comes back to your approach. That’s the biggest battle as a hitter. Getting an approach, understanding who is on the mound, understanding what they are trying to do to get you out, and then making the adjustment.”

Stats

Justin Williams 2017

GP 96
GP 96
PA 409
AB 366
Hits 110
Doubles 21
Triples 3
Home Runs 14
RBI 72
SB (CS) 6 (2)
AVG 0.301
OBP 0.364
SLG 0.386
OPS 0.489
BB% 9.0 %
SO% 16.9 %
ISO 0.189
BAbip 0.334
wOBA 0.384
wRC+ 145

Stats Notes: Williams had fairly even results vs LHP (.297/.354/.525) and RHP (.302/.368/.475) which makes him a fine candidate to earn a full time role in MLB when he arrives. Also of note is the fact that his OPS improved from .772 in the first half to .907 in the second half, showing a marked improvement as the season wore on.

Interesting Comparison: Josh Reddick

Williams and Reddick are both about the same height and weight and both are LHB who fit best in the corner outfield spots.

Reddick was a year older in AA in 2009 when he managed 287 PA there and worked a 10.5 % BB rate and 21.6 % SO rate. He hit 13 HRs, stole 5 bases, hit .277/.352/.520 overall and ended up with a .386 wOBA and 138 wRC+.

Williams, meanwhile, was a year younger in AA in 2017 and managed 407 PA there and worked a 9.0 % BB rate and 16.9 % SO rate. He hit 14 HRs, stole 6 bases, hit .301/.364/.489 overall and ended up with a .384 wOBA and 145 wRC+.

The similarities are evident. Reddick has a checkered health record, but we know he has 30 HR power with a very productive ability at the plate. It will be interesting to see how Williams does when he reaches the majors and whether he can stay on the field at a better rate (Reddick has only managed more than 115 GP on three occasions over a decade’s worth of MLB time).

Notes for 2018 and beyond

When you talk to evaluators about Williams you get a range of opinions. Some believe he will become a power-hitting right-fielder with an above-average line, and others believe he may struggle to make good on his power and still has significant adjustments to make at the plate to remain effective when promoted to MLB.

Here’s what we know: Williams is very talented, he’s very hard-working, and he’s already shown an ability to make significant improvements throughout his minors career. It doesn’t seem overly optimistic to anticipate that he will be able to make the necessary adjustments when he gets to The Show.

I would anticipate that he’ll continue to make adjustments at the plate with the aim to produce more fly balls (only 23.6 % in 2017) - out of his swing. After all, if he can tap into that 20.0 % HR/FB rate more often, he’ll easily reach new heights in HRs and could exceed even the most optimistic predictions.

With the chance to play alongside many players that are both highly ranked as he is and of similar age on the Durham Bulls team, Williams is set up to succeed in 2018. He’ll continue to play right field and may be called up in-season; he was protected from the rule 5 draft in November and added to the 40-man roster.

Williams should be making his way into the Trop and into a Rays uniform shortly, and if not in 2018 (as with Willy Adames and Jake Bauers in 2017), definitely in 2019.

Justin Williams: Spotlight Videos

Recap and links of previously listed DRB Top 55 Rays Prospects

*Note: rankings were adjusted and reflect recent additions to the system - it is now a Top 55 list