Most baseball fans are familiar with the phrase "Three True Outcomes", which refers to walks, strike outs, and home runs. These outcomes are "true" in that they pit the pitcher against the batter, largely independent of outside factors like defense or foot speed. When ball four is awarded to the batter, it is a certainty that he will be reaching first base.
When it comes to prospects, certainties do not exist. Every prospect has a wide range of outcomes between his ceiling and floor potential, with most players settling somewhere in between the two. I like to think of prospect outcomes as the Dream (the player's ceiling), the Nightmare (the player's floor) and the Reality (weighing all the factors to come up with the most likely outcome). Throughout the year, I will be examining the ceilings and floors of players across the minor leagues, and making my best forecast on the eventual outcome. Today, I take a reader request and look at Yankees' outfielder Mason Williams.
Above all else, every time a scout heads out to a game he wants be wowed by what he sees on the field. Well, when scouts watch Mason Williams play; they often get just what they want. If Williams is not the most athletic and exciting player in the Minor Leagues, he is at least on the short list of contenders. Presently, he's an 80 runner and most believe he will settle in with 70 speed once he gets to the big leagues. For having such great wheels, he is actually quite a poor base stealer with just 55 of his 85 career steal attempts resulting in a thievery. Perhaps that ratio will improve as he continues learning to run the bases, as he certainly has the burst to be an elite base stealer. Where his athleticism really shows through is in centerfield, where he combines plus speed with outstanding instincts, and a strong arm to profile as a truly special defensive talent. His bat is slightly behind the defense in terms of development, but his offensive outlook has evaluators and executives excited as well. Actually, it was his bat that really thrust him onto the prospect scene after he finished second in the New York Penn League in batting average (.349) with 20 extra-base hits in 68 games. He followed that up with an impressive full season debut in 2012, hitting .298/.346/.474 and reaching Hi-A as a 20-year-old. Though some might question his approach due to his low walk totals, he hardly ever swings and misses and seems to have a knack for making hard contact. Another common concern is ultra-thin frame, evoking some comparisons to former Phillies' centerfielder (and current ESPN analyst) Doug Glanville, yet despite his slight nature, he has some strength and some experts think he has 25 home run power in his prime, especially if the left-handed hitter stays in New York. Along with the Glanville comparison, some in the Yankees' organization liken him to a more athletic version of Austin Jackson and I see some Carlos Gomez in him. Add the defense, the offense, and the big market of New York and Williams could be an absolute star.
Ceiling Fantasy Line: .321 average, 26 home runs, 121 runs, 84 RBIs, 36 steals
Ultra-toolsy prospects normally have their fair share of risks, but Williams has some truly alarming traits. Starting with his on-field talents, he has a rather standard question mark regarding his hit tool. He has a tendency to shift his weight forward too early, and he can get a little power happy like Willie Mays Hayes. This year those flaws have been on full display in the Florida State League (a notorious pitchers' league) where he has just a .648 OPS through the season's first 44 games. He also hasn't tapped into the power potential just yet, hitting a paltry 16 home runs in his professional career. Yet I think the defensive profile alone could get him to the big leagues, if not for the questions regarding his makeup. The word often used to describe Williams is immature, with more than a handful of incidents that caused the Yankees to remove him from games due to lack of effort. One scout said he, "needs to be humbled," and Josh Norris of the Trentonian received this quote on him earlier in the year:
Mason Williams is hitting like Ichiro. He's taking a step forward first. I didn't see him drive one ball, not one. He can really play center still. He can run. He throws good, but I'm concerned with the off-field makeup. He didn't run anything out. He trots down the line almost every at-bat. Every groundball, you look, and you're like I can't get a good time off this because he doesn't run.
Doesn't really make you feel good about his long-term outlook does it? And unfortunately there's more, as back in late April Williams was arrested on DUI charges. His shortcomings on the field are worrisome enough, but I think talent-wise most would agree he should reach the Major Leagues. Once you factor in his off-field issues though, the likelihood that he never reaches the show becomes much more likely. As always, we'll predict a floor fantasy line assuming he does make the big leagues, but be aware that he needs to make some changes just to reach New York.
Floor Fantasy Line: .243 average, 7 home runs, 56 runs, 33 RBI's, 14 steals
While it wouldn't really be fair, it may be easier just to flip a coin on this one. Williams has a long list of pros and cons, and I could spend hundreds of words pouring over which way to lean in terms of his future. But for now, all I will say is that I am going to give the benefit of the doubt to someone termed "immature" at 21 years old. I'm sure the Yankees understand how important he is to their future and they will use their resources to see to it that he grows up a bit in the next couple of seasons. And, truthfully, the reality (see what I did there) is that tools play at the Major League level, and by golly Mason Williams has some outstanding tools. Now, I don't think he has the power potential that some others see, but Yankee Stadium should help with some of that in terms of his fantasy value and he can a .280 hitter with some steals. While that may not be the star some are expecting, it's a solid fantasy player and an even better real player because of the glove.
Fantasy Line: 280 average, 13 home runs, 84 runs, 53 RBIs, 26 steals
Fore more on the Yankees and their prospects, be sure to check out Pinstriped Bible.
Andrew Ball is a writer for Fake Teams, Fantasy Ninjas, and Beyond the Box Score.
You can follow him on twitter @Andrew_Ball.