Adjustments recapture Williams' swing

With Stairs' help, rookie changing approach to be more selective at plate

Adjustments recapture Williams' swing

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Every story this early in Spring Training comes with the caveat that it is early in Spring Training.

But Phillies prospect Nick Williams has experienced some success after considerable changes to his swing. He went 1-for-2 with two RBIs and one walk in Sunday's 10-3 victory over the Blue Jays in a Grapefruit League game at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. He singled Friday in his only plate appearance against the Yankees.

"Matt Stairs has been working with me," Williams said. "At first, in a couple BPs, I was like, 'eh.' I felt like my power was gone because I swing a lot softer. It feels great now. I had to stick with not thinking of results. That's hard as a baseball player, especially as a young guy trying to impress in big league camp. Even today on the strikeout, I was seeing the ball well. The little adjustments he made feel great."

Cut4: Williams loses bat on strikeout

Williams, 23, hit .258 with 33 doubles, six triples, 13 home runs, 64 RBIs and a .714 OPS in 527 plate appearances last season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He struck out 136 times and walked 19 times.

Williams seemed certain for a big league promotion at one point last season. He hit .290 with a .790 OPS in 399 plate appearances through July 29, but just .161 with a .478 OPS the rest of the way. His stock dipped. Because he is considered a riskier projection, he no longer is in MLB Pipeline's Top 100, although he remains the organization's No. 4 prospect.

"If the season had ended right there [July 29], Nick Williams would be all over top 100 prospects list, all over the Internet," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. "And that doesn't mean that August didn't happen, because it did. He really struggled in August, but what this kid did for the first four months of the Minor League season last year was very impressive, particularly given his age and where he was doing it."

Stairs said he could not wait to work with Williams this spring. He saw a hitter that strode and landed too hard with his front foot, which had his head moving everywhere.

"My head was moving so much, I don't know how I ever got hits," said Williams, whom the Phillies acquired from the Rangers in the Cole Hamels trade in July 2015.

"We've changed his approach completely," Stairs said, referring to work that began last season in Triple-A. "He had no idea about the strike zone. His front side is soft now. He doesn't stride so hard. He knows how to use his lower half. He was never taught how to use his lower half or his hands [in Texas]. Now he does."

Williams said he is hitting the ball harder because he sees pitches better and is more selective at the plate.

"When you're more selective, the walks come with that," Williams said. "It's really just about seeing the ball. When I was going forward, I kept diving over the plate, and it's caused me to lean forward and look at a pitch that I didn't know. A lot of times last year, I didn't know if the pitch was a strike or a ball."

Now he does. It remains to be seen how far Williams can take it, but the Phillies hope it has him in the big leagues before the end of the season.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.