Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Will Yankees protect Mason Williams?

Just two years ago Mason Williams was a top prospect in the New York Yankees farm system. Come Thursday, Williams may not be protected by the club and thus be available in the Rule 5 draft held during the Winter Meetings.

Williams was ranked as high as 32nd of all baseball prospects by Baseball America, 41st by MLB.com and 51st by Baseball Prospectus before the 2013 season. He was at one time considered the player who would be manning the outfield in New York sometime by the 2015 or 2016 season depending on who you read at the time. Now he is ranked 17th in the Yankees system according to MLB.com, and he’s nowhere near reaching the majors.

Furthermore, after consecutive seasons of declining performance along with questionable commitment -- he was arrested in 2013 for DUI and came to camp out of shape in 2014 -- Williams could be left unprotected and available to be swooped up in the Rule 5 draft (FAQs here).

What should the Yankees do?

Year Age Lev G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2010 18 Rk 5 19 0 4 0 0 0 0 1 2 1 4 .222 .263 .222 .485
2011 19 A- 68 298 42 94 11 6 3 31 28 12 20 41 .349 .395 .468 .863
2012 20 A-A+ 91 397 68 107 22 4 11 35 20 13 24 47 .298 .346 .474 .820
2013 21 A+-AA 117 537 63 117 24 4 4 28 15 9 40 79 .245 .304 .337 .641
2014 22 AA 128 563 67 113 18 4 5 40 21 8 47 68 .223 .290 .304 .593
5 Seasons 409 1814 240 435 75 18 23 134 85 44 132 239 .267 .323 .377 .700
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/19/2014.

The Yankees are very much set up in two of their outfield positions with Jacoby Ellsbury signed for the next six seasons and Brett Gardner for the next four, maybe five years. Carlos Beltran has two more years left on his deal and the Yankees fourth outfielder, Chris Young, is signed for just 2015. So, it would seem that anyone from the Yankees system might fill a fourth outfielder spot in 2016, and based on Williams’ recent performance, it will not be him.

The Yankees have players such as Tyler Austin, Kyle Roller, Mark Montgomery, Branden Pinder, Danny Burawa, Nik Turley and Matt Tracy to consider for spots in addition to Williams according to The LoHud Yankees Blog reporter Chad Jennings.

The Yankees currently have 36 players on their 40-man roster leaving four spots available. Of those players, Slade Heathcott, Ramon Flores, Eury Perez are all listed as outfielders. Jose Pirela, regarded primarily as an infielder, can play in the outfield as well.

It seems that the Yankees have other players who right now have a better chance to not only reach the big leagues, but have an impact than Williams. Jennings does note that many clubs might find Williams’ speed, good defense and left-handedness as assets for a fifth outfielder bench role.

But would the Yankees truly miss him? Will the Yankees simply take a chance that others will view Williams as a work in progress, and not worth putting on their roster and skip him in the Rule 5 draft?

My guess is that the Yankees do not protect him and he goes unclaimed. It's not a foregone conclusion that he's never going to reach the level he was once seen to possess. However, the last couple of seasons do not point to a player on the rise, but one who might have been rated too high initially and one of many prospects to never fully develop into the star many once believed they could be.

Do you think the Yankees protect Williams or gamble with him being selected in the Rule 5 draft? Let me know in the comments.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



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