The youth infusion has grown by one additional member. The Phillies promoted outfielder Nick Williams to the big league club today as the calendar gets ready to flip over into July. The lineup card hasn’t been released yet for the game, but I’d expect Williams to get a start sometime over the next three games as the Phillies head to Flushings to take on the Mets. Williams’ promotion comes on the heels of Howie Kendrick hitting the DL for the second time this season with a hamstring injury that sidelined him for weeks earlier this year. While the Phillies will miss Kendrick’s prominent bat in a lineup that has been devoid of potency this season, it will give Williams a chance to prove his worth at the Major League level.
Even if Kendrick is out the minimum ten games required for his DL trip, that should give Williams plenty of time to show he belongs. The Phillies now have newly added two Iron Pigs to their outfield depth, one of which will likely be sent back down to AAA when Kendrick comes off the DL. The other, of course, being Cameron Perkins, who has struggled mightily since being called up to the big leagues. Perkins has hit just .111 with three hits in 27 at bats. He’s also struck out 10 times in those 27 at bats, so this could be a chance for a little in-house competition to see who remains on the 25-man roster. Williams will do well to just hit his weight (195) if he wants to impress over Perkins. Of course that’s not a desirable batting average either, but the team would take .195 over .111. With minor league options being equal, this likely won’t come down to a roster move, but instead will allow the two outfielders to battle it out for the right to remain on the big league roster once Kendrick comes back.
With Williams’ promotion, let’s take a look back at the timeline of what brought the highly touted outfielder to this point, as he gets set to make his Major League debut in the coming days.
Nick Williams was drafted out of Ball High School in Galveston, Texas in the second round, 93rd overall, not by his hometown Houston Astros, but by in-state rival, the Texas Rangers. To put perspective on that second round, 16 picks earlier the Phillies chose Dylan Cozens, who hit 40 homeruns in Reading a season ago but is struggling to find his swing in Lehigh Valley this year. Williams played the entire 2012 season for the Rangers rookie ball team, hitting .313 in 48 games. The next year, he was promoted to A Hickory, where he spent the entire 2013 season, playing in 95 games. He hit well again in Hickory, this time batting .293. He added 17 homeruns and 60 RBI’s in those 95 games.
The success in Hickory earned Williams his second promotion in two seasons, and, at 20-years-old, he was assigned to High A Myrtle Beach. In 94 games at Myrtle Beach, Williams batted .292 and had an OPS well over .800. He played in 94 games total in South Carolina that year, with a 15 game stop at AA Frisco as well. Williams didn’t fare as well at the AA level as he had at High A that year, hitting just .226 with a .250 on-base percentage. The strikeout total was also very high, as Williams struck out in 21 of his 62 at bats in 2014.
The Rangers had confidence in Williams going into his third full professional season, and as he started his 2015 season in Frisco. That confidence paid off for the Rangers, as Williams was very productive in his first 97 games with the Rough Riders. Williams hit just a point below .300 will dramatically improving his on-base percentage to a personal AA best of .357. He added 13 homeruns and 45 RBI’s over that stretch.
Then, at the trade deadline that season, Williams was packaged with catcher Jorge Alfaro, and pitchers Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff, Alec Asher and Matt Harrison and shipped to the Phillies in exchange for 2008 World Series ace Cole Hamels and the reliever I like to call, “The worst pitcher with the best stuff I’ve ever seen,” Jake Diekman. Williams was then optioned to Reading, where he’d remain for the rest of the season. In 22 games with the Fightin’ Phils, Williams was incredibly productive, batting .320 over 97 at bats to end the season.
In the spring of 2016, Williams was offered an invite to spring training camp. While it was likely he wouldn’t make the 25-man roster, this invite would give Williams a shot to show what he could do against Major League arms. In the end, the Phillies optioned Williams back to the minors, but this time, they sent him to AAA Lehigh Valley. Williams spent the entire 2016 season in Lehigh Valley where his season totals don’t quite show the year he had. Williams struggled in the beginning of the season to find success at a level he had never played at before. By the end of the year, the comfort zone had returned to Williams’ game, and he hit .258 over 125 games. The concern for Williams, once again, was the high strikeout ratio, as he was punched out on over 27 percent of his at bats.
Williams again began this season at Lehigh Valley. 2017 has offered better results for the outfielder, as he’s hit .280 with a .328 on base percentage through the first 78 games of the season. The strikeouts remained at a high rate, as Williams was striking out this year at a 31 percent clip, but the on-base percentage has been better as of late.
At almost 24-years-old, it took Williams parts of six seasons to make it to the Major Leagues. He actually is the last of the five players in the Hamels deal to make the big leagues. Eickhoff has been with the Phillies for the better part of a full season combined, now. Thompson has been up and down. Alfaro made his debut last September during call ups when the roster expands to 40 players. And Alec Asher pitched for a bit with the Phillies and is now with the Baltimore Orioles. As I mentioned earlier, Cameron Perkins has struck out in 27 percent of his at bats this season with the Phillies, a number eerily similar to Williams. The last man standing will presumably be the one who can adjust more quickly at the plate and cut down on the strikeouts.
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports