I have struggled with my scouting evaluation of New York Yankees outfield prospect Mason Williams.
I project him to one day be a multiple tool player roaming the outfield in Yankee Stadium. But there is work to be done before that happens.
I don't think the issue will be "if" Williams can play Major League Baseball. It is more a question of "when."
When I watched Williams play center field in the Arizona Fall League, my eyes saw an athlete with an outstanding frame and the type of physicality that translates to "star."
My problem is simple. I kept waiting to see Williams use his wiry 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame as a base for a top-notch hitting tool.
While he hit .267 in the Fall League, I guess I expected to see him drive the ball more. I expected to see more elevation and loft to his hitting. He had no home runs and drove in four runs.
However, while I was confused by his offense, I was enthused and encouraged by his defense. He can really play center field.
The Yankees selected Williams directly from West Orange High School in Winter Garden, Fla. He was chosen in the fourth round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
Athletic genes run in Williams' family. He is the son of former New England Patriots receiver Derwin Williams.
Williams is the No. 2 player on the Yankees' Top 20 Prospects list.
A left-handed hitter, Williams has enough speed to classify as a plus runner. He uses his speed busting down the line from home to first. But he had an on-base percentage of .330. That didn't offer many opportunities to steal. He was successful in four out of six attempts.
His lack of power in the Fall League mirrors his performance to date in the Yankees farm system.
In his career to date Williams has hit 18 home runs. He has 57 doubles and 18 triples, showing his speed and an ability to hit the gaps.
In 2011 during his first full season while playing for Class A Short Season Staten Island, he hit .349 in 298 plate appearances. He struck out only 41 times and delivered a message that he has a potential hit tool.
In 2012 during his age 20-season, Williams played for Charleston in Class A and Tampa in Class A Advanced. He hit a combined .298, spending most of his time hitting .304 at Charleston. That's where he had 311 of his 397 plate appearances for the year.
His season ended early when he dislocated his shoulder making a diving catch.
Incidentally, I saw him make diving catches in the Fall League. He certainly doesn't shy away from that play.
This past season, Williams began the year at Tampa hitting .261, including 21 doubles in 461 trips to the plate. He was promoted to Double-A Trenton in August, where he finished the season hitting .153 in 76 plate appearances while playing in 17 games.
This past season, Williams scuffled a bit more against lefties, hitting only .222 rather than his .257 against right-handed pitching.
Williams has quick hands and good bat speed. He makes good contact with a rather short, direct path to the ball. He hasn't shown much patience at the plate, generally swinging early and often.
In the games I scouted, I saw Williams rely heavily upon his forearms and wrists for his offensive thrust, as opposed to taking advantage of his legs and lower body in his swing. It did result in some line drives and shots through infield holes. But it caused a lack of loft on the ball.
Of all his tools, I feel his outfield defense and plus arm strength and accuracy are the best.
A former pitcher, Williams will cut down runners looking to advance.
Williams follows the flight of the ball off the bat extremely well. He closes fast on balls hit in all directions and takes charge in the outfield.
Williams is a fine athlete with a hitting tool waiting to explode. That could happen at any time.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less