Reestablishing My Impression Of Nick Williams

I hate to admit that it's even possible, but when it happens I have to own up, so here it goes: I may have been wrong about something. Specifically, Nick Williams. There, I said it.

Photo courtesy of the amazing Scott Lucas

Photo courtesy of the amazing Scott Lucas

My lack of faith in Nick's longterm (major league) prospects didn't come unwarranted. Since getting selected as the #33 overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft, he has posted some seriously atrocious minor league strikeout and walk numbers:

2012: 50 K's, 17 BB's (224 PAs)

2013: 110 K's, 15 BB's (404 PAs)

2014: 140 K's, 24 BB's (486 PAs)

If you kept a tally at home, in a little over 1,100 professional plate appearances (not including winter ball), Williams walked a total of 56 times. In the same span, he struck out 300 times... or, about six times per every time he drew a free pass. Only 21 years old, this seemed to be a pretty damning trajectory for a player with advanced baseball skills, both at the plate and roaming the outfield.

Without some glimmer of plate discipline, however, I was an admitted Nick Williams hater, and I'm simply writing this article to repent. 

Now it's 2015, and Nick is hitting nothing like he's hit in the past. In 146 plate appearances he's generated a .303/.363/.470 (130 wRC+) triple slash line, which isn't that far out of line with his career averages, with only one exception: Nick Williams's approach at the plate. That is to say, he has an approach now. 

With 13 walks, he's already bagged over half of his career-best figure in that department (23), and, extrapolated over 500 plate appearances, is on pace to shatter that total. According to the numbers, this version of Nick Williams is brand new, and it's fantastic progress.

Not only are his walks reaching new heights -- his 8.9% BB rate is the best of his professional career -- but his strikeouts are dipping. Last year in 408 Carolina League plate appearances, William's strikeout rate was 28.7%, a figure that further dipped (32.8%) after his late-season promotion to the Texas League. 

This year, Nick Williams's K rate (15.8%) hasn't only been better than his previous career best (by a fair margin), it's been objectively good for a corner outfielder. Had Nick repeated a level in 2015, this would still be a worthwhile footnote in the baseball season, but it's that he's been doing it in his first real sample of Double-A pitching that makes it so impressive.