Montgomery, Alabama —— Entering play on Friday night, Tampa Bay Rays outfield prospect Justin Williams is slashing .291/.350/.438/.788 over 69 games (265 at-bats) with the Southern League‘s Montgomery Biscuits, with 12 doubles, three triples, seven home runs, and 25 walks against 60 strikeouts in 2017. I observed the 21-year-old Louisiana native in a late July home series against Penscola; below is Baseball Census‘ full Justin Williams scouting report, including several videos.
Justin Williams Scouting Report — Video
Our first video of Tampa Bay Rays outfield prospect Justin Williams shows his at-bats over a two-game period July 19-20, 2017 against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, with clips taken from both sides to see his swing mechanics and raw ability at the plate:
And our second Justin Williams video shows more of his game at-bats, these taken from the 2016 Arizona Fall League season where he played for the Peoria Javelinas:
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Justin Williams Scouting Report — Notes
Justin Williams is vastly improved at the plate compared to my looks during the Arizona Fall League in 2016. This year, he has better access to his raw power (gap-to-gap), a more consistent swing plane to make hard contact, and an improved ability to manipulate the barrel. That’s resulted in a solid offensive season played in a muggy, humid pitcher’s park, and Williams has set himself apart by going gap-to-gap against advanced pitchers with ease. He’s still in search of consistent over-the-fence pop, but even though he’s in the upper minors he won’t be 22 years old until later this month, so it may just be that the pop will take time to show. He has the natural strength for it, and more so now than last year the swing plane, but he has yet to put a real season together showcasing significant raw power that could get him to the next level. Patient enough with the bat and not a black hole free swinger, the Tampa Bay Rays prospect has an approach more mature than his age. Still room to improve there and more consistently draw walks, but Williams has put himself in a good position with really a pretty strong year at the plate in 2017.
On defense, the outfielder has a work ethic absolutely through the roof, and he’s taken quite a bit of time between this year and last to turn his glove work into a strength. Good hustle and great reads on balls in the outfield. Decent arm—good enough to play right field in short stints, but likely not quite good enough to man it everyday. Wants to be out there, though, and that can’t be overlooked; first drew my attention this year because of his notable hustle reading balls off the bat in batting practice on triple-digit heat days in Montgomery. Foot speed is a plus here too, and even though he has yet to steal significant bases in his career, Justin Williams can get to an impressive top speed in the outfield and track down balls in the gap with ease. Plus athlete overall, with good tendencies and instincts for baseball and a mature, good-natured attitude that handles adversity pretty well.
Justin Williams Scouting Report — Projection
Still very young and playing at a high level in the upper minors, Justin Williams is right on track to impact the Tampa Bay Rays by the end of next summer. Beyond that, he may yet have a shot to be an everyday outfielder for them, though adding power—specifically over-the-fence power—would greatly help that pursuit. Good attitude, impressive maturity for his age, and notable work ethic will boost him, as well. Mature enough to understand how to use his body and how/when to rest, but also determined enough to push hard and put the work in that’s necessary. The Tampa Bay Rays have asked Justin Williams several years in a row to play fall/winter ball and do extra work, and he has responded by producing in each and every league all around the world. Unafraid of a challenge there and he should take to competing for a big league job well in the coming years.
Long term, likely a fit for left or perhaps center field with his speed and defensive ability, though he’ll need to hit for significantly more power to find himself in an everyday role in the big leagues. Above all, considering he’ll be just 22 years old in a few weeks, time is on the outfielder’s side as he tries to develop into a big leaguer and grow some over-the-fence pop. Shouldn’t be lost in the greater evaluation that he’s also a very, very nice kid who wants to succeed and does things the right way. If it works out for him with the Tampa Bay Rays in the next few summers, good — he’ll have earned it.
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