Yankees Mason Williams Still Has Superstar Potential Despite Setbacks

The New York Yankees called up former number one prospect Mason Williams from Triple-A Wednesday to replace injured rookie right fielder Aaron Judge.

According to Sweeny Murti of WFAN, the New York Yankees expect to be without starting right fielder Aaron Judge for the remainder of the season after the 24-year-old suffered a strained right oblique in Tuesday night’s 3-0 victory over the Dodgers.

In his place, New York has called up the outfield phenom who predated Judge on the top of most lists of Yankees prospects, Mason Williams. Ranked the number one prospect in the system by Baseball America as recently as 2013, Williams has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness the past few years, but has seen his stock uptick slightly since the beginning of 2015.

The 2014 season was probably the low point of Williams professional career. He hit .223/.290/.304 in 563 plate appearances for Double-A Trenton, and there were whispers that Williams simply didn’t care enough to put in the work necessary to advance. 

Questions about work ethic are always difficult to substantiate, but given the amount of smoke there was around Williams at that time, you have to assume there was at least some fire.

In any case, following his tumultuous 2014 campaign, Williams reportedly came to spring training the next year with a completely transformed approach. While he began the year back with the Thunder, it only took him 34 games to earn a promotion to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

Williams’s continued strong play with the Railriders got him the nod when an injury to Jacoby Ellsbury opened up a spot in the Yankees outfield. He made the most of his first big league call-up, going 6-for-21 with three doubles, a home run, and and three RBI in eight games along with superlative defense in center field. 

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However, just as the dynamic outfielder was establishing himself as one of the most exciting young players on the team, he injured his shoulder diving back to a base and ended up requiring surgery that would finish his season.

The rehab process for the injury dragged on into this season, delaying the 25-year-old’s 2016 debut until July. Since rejoining Scranton Wilkes-Barre, he has shown off his impressive speed, defense, and contact ability, although his power seems slightly diminished by the shoulder issue.

Williams hit .298/.315/.380 in 138 plate appearances for the Railriders, taking over for Ben Gamel in the leadoff spot, and leading the team to the International League Championship series.

With Judge out, there is an opening for Williams to get his foot in the door for 2017, although Yankees manager Joe Girardi said following yesterday’s game that Rob Refsnyder would be his starting right fielder for the moment.

In addition, Aaron Hicks is expected to return from a hamstring injury at some point next week, providing Williams with more competition for playing time.

For the moment, fans should expect Mason Williams to take over fourth outfielder duties. He can play all three outfield spots well and can offer some speed as a pinch-runner as well.

Williams does seem to retain all of the tools that made him a two-time Top 100 prospect even with all the injuries and setbacks, so it would be exciting to see him get a look in a regular role.

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