Could Mason Williams Play His Way into a 2017 Starting Job?

New York Yankees Mason Williams continues to excel since his big league promotion, raising the question of what his role next year will be.

While the sample size is obviously small, Yankees rookie outfielder Mason Williams has added a spark to the team’s lineup since his call up to replace the injured Aaron Judge on September 14th. In four starts since then, Williams has gone 7-for-16 with four runs scored.

With outfielders Aaron Hicks and Jacoby Ellsbury still not 100%, Williams should get regular playing time down the stretch, giving him a chance to audition for a role on next year’s team.

Unfortunately for him, he faces a lot of competition next year to even make the big league club in 2017, let alone be considered for a starting role. Incumbents Ellsbury, Judge, and Brett Gardner are presumably the favorites to be New York’s starting outfield on Opening Day, although Yankees general manager Brian Cashman recently told reporters Judge will have to earn his spot with a strong showing in the spring.

In addition, Gardner and Ellsbury are both candidates to be shopped this winter with the club looking to get younger and cheaper. Jacoby probably isn’t going anywhere with his massive contract, but the team has been shopping Gardy for a while now, and it seems inevitable that he gets dealt sooner than later.

A Gardner trade would leave two outfield spots open for Baby Bombers like Judge, Hicks, Williams, Rob Refsnyder, and Clint Frazier to duke it out for in March. Williams’s game is so similar to Gardner and Ellsbury that moving at least one of those guys is the only way he’ll land a regular gig. Having three speedy left-handed hitting outfielders with little power probably isn’t the best roster construction.

The 25-year-old Williams does have a minor league option remaining even though it seems like he’s been around forever, so probably the most likely scenario is that he once again heads back to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre and waits for an injury.

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Because of the shoulder injury that kept him out most of the last two seasons, Williams hasn’t actually seen all that much time in the International League, just 229 plate appearances combined, so it’s not like he’s been wasting away down there with nothing left to prove.

The Yankees have thinned out their outfield picture somewhat, but they still have plenty of depth, and Mason Williams is a key piece of that. Personally, I’d love to see him play well enough that the team is comfortable dealing Gardner and letting Williams keep left field warm for Clint Frazier.

However, even if they decide to hang onto everyone and send Williams back to Triple-A to begin the year, it shouldn’t be long before he gets another look with how well he’s played. It would be great to see his often turbulent career get a happy ending.

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