Finding comps for prospects: Mason Williams

Derek and I ranked outfield prospect Mason Williams as our #3 prospect this offseason and gave him an anticipated MLB ETA of 2015. Here’s what we had to say about him:

Mason was disappointing with the bat this year, posting a 95 wRC+ in 461 High-A plate appearances. He was overmatched after a promotion to Double-A, hitting .154/.164/.264 in 76 plate appearances. Yet, the highly athletic Williams already plays superb defense in center and probably will at worst be a fourth outfielder in the big leagues.

I also wrote Williams’ prospect profile for Pinstripe Alley this winter. My conclusion:

Even though Williams has started to sputter offensively, he’s still a top-flight defender in center field by all accounts, which keeps him very much on the prospect radar. Yet despite his defensive prowess, Williams will need to take some steps forward offensively to be an impact player in the majors. Williams is only 22, so he could obviously still improve, but he’s starting to look more like a light-hitting fourth outfielder than the center fielder of the future. Frankly, it’s hard to look at his 2013 stats without thinking “Endy Chavez” — hopefully that’s not the case this time next year.

Using only Williams’ 2013 stat line, I compiled a list of comps — players who put up similar numbers (BB%, K%, and ISO) in the Florida State League at a similar age.

This analysis cuts right to the bottom line — it considers what a player did in his most recent year and churns out a list of players who performed similarly. There are some obvious limitations to this approach. For one thing, it only considers a hitter’s offensive performance and completely ignores defensive position and ability, so some of the comps will have very different defensive profiles. Additionally, this analysis only considers 2013 stats and does not take into account a player’s performance from previous seasons. Finally, in no way does it take into account things like scouting reports, which provide insight into a player’s future performance. Still, this gives us some living, breathing examples of players with similar offensive track records and hopefully gives us an idea of some possible career trajectories.

For reference, a center fielder with average defense who posts a 100 wRC+ is worth about 2.5 WAR over a full season — good enough to be a starter, but not a star. The more similar comps are at the top of the list:

Player PA’s Triple Slash wRC+
Lionel Hastings 0 N/A N/A
Darwin Barney* 1,799 .246/.293/.336 67
J.T. Realmuto* 0 N/A N/A
Jose Texidor 0 N/A N/A
Isaias Velasquez 0 N/A N/A
Chad Allen 928 .269/.321/.389 80
Mike Bell 31 .222/.321/.389 91
Jon Slack 0 N/A N/A
Jorge Sequea 0 N/A N/A
Eric Knowles 0 N/A N/A

*Active with at least a reasonable chance of  playing in the majors some time in the future

Yup. That seems about right following Williams’ punchless 2013 campaign. Williams is great defensively, but he’ll have to hit a little more than he did last year to be of much use the majors. Otherwise, we’ll have the outfield version of Darwin Barney on our hands. Overall, the projection systems aren’t super high on him, either. The Torii Hunter comp (from ZiPS, below) is interesting, but I have a hard time buying it. I can’t imagine Williams will ever hit for that much power.

Davenport:

Anthony Webster: (career minor leaguer)

Tyson Gillies: (still in minors)

Jorge Piedra: (99 wRC+)

Ricky Otero: (73 wRC+)

PECOTA:

A.J. Pollock: (96 wRC+)

Cedric Hunter: (106 wRC+, 5 PA’s)

Rafael Ortega: (226 wRC+, 6 PA’s)

ZiPS:

Torii Hunter (111 wRC+)

About Chris

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, and is an occasional user of the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell
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