2016 Phillies Report Card: Nick Williams
Reaching back to last offseason, the prevalent expectation for Nick Williams was simple: spend a few months tearing apart AAA pitching, fine tune the outfield defense, get fitted for red pinstripes. By the summer, the front office would be forced to bring the Cedric Hunter experience to an abrupt end. By the end of the season, the outfield would have twice as much certainty. This Report Card would be glowing.
It’s fair to say those expectations were not met.
As to why the ascendance of Williams seemed inevitable, a select list of qualities from the Baseball Prospectus scouting reports on the player:
– unmatched bat-to-ball skills
– plus-plus bat speed
– can barrel anything
– innate hitting ability
– easily the best natural hitter I’ve seen live
As to why that ascendance never occurred, two relevant numbers from his most recent season:
BB% – 3.6%
K% – 25.8%
This lack of plate discipline manifested in a 100 wRC+. For context, that is a league average result from a top prospect noted for his innate hitting ability. Disappointing. That approach in the major leagues is destined for failure, regardless of any natural hitting talent one may possess. Observe the career arc of Delmon Young for reference.
The apologetic slant: Williams’ undisciplined approach is a product of his immense talent. Or in other terms, the results never warranted an adjustment. Consider the following table, documenting each level prior to this year where Williams reached the 100 plate appearance mark.
*Post trade to the Phillies
Williams has long been an overly aggressive hitter, but 2016 was the first time the approach undermined the results to the point of concern, leaving the coming season as the first time he is challenged to adjust. That is to say, it’s your move, Nick.
There are certainly reasons to remain optimistic on Williams. He has a knack for damage on contact. And as a prospect, the natural talent and sky high ceiling warrant a respectable grade. But as for meeting the expectations of this past season, well, they were unmet.