It’s no secret Mason Williams, our No. 16 prospect, struggled in the Yankees system after being selected by the club in the fourth round of the 2010 draft.
While he always played excellent defense, Williams, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound native of Pawtucket, R.I., who has made Winter Garden, Fla., his home for most of his life, looked like he had no clue at the plate.
And while the now 24-year-old Williams had his defense declared major-league ready by scouts during his 2014 season, his .223 (113-for-507) batting average the second time around at Double-A Trenton, had those some evaluators writing him off.
“If this kid Williams would just get it at the plate, the Yankees would really have something,’’ said a scout from a National League team.
The Yankees had been thinking this for a few years.
When Williams arrived at Arm & Hammer Park for his third season in Trenton last April, something was different. A light went on. An attitude changed. A different player emerged.
“I don’t want to talk about last year, any other past year or anything in the past,’’ said Williams. “I changed some things and it will be different.
“I value the chance the Yankees have given me, and you will see the difference on the field and at-bat. I can’t wait to start the season.’’
What was marvelous is Williams backed up his word, was a changed player and rode his success all the way to the Yankees until a jammed left shoulder and subsequent surgery short-circuited his season.
But what Williams showed before the injury was a glimpse of a possible bright Yankees future.
With a new, more effective approach at the plate and a revamped swing, Williams batted .317 (38-for-120) in 34 games at Trenton. He concentrated on hitting line drives and hard ground balls and taking advantage of his speed.
At the same time, his defense on center field was sensational.
The Yankees – and everyone else – took note, and Williams was quickly promoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He kept things going and batted .321 (26-for-81) in 20 games and got the call to New York June 12.
In eight major-league games, he hit .286 (6-for-21) with three doubles and a home run. Defensively, Williams made several outstanding catches. Then, the shoulder injury.
Rest did not heal the problem, and surgery was announced in August. Williams certainly out to be ready for Spring Training.
One would have to surmise the battle for a Yankees reserve outfield spot would involve both Williams and Slade Heathcott. If both can stay healthy, each will add speed and young legs to the lineup.
The key for Williams is he showed what he was made of. Being named a top prospect carries with it a lot of responsibility.
Williams assumed a lot of the latter in 2015.