Prospect Profile: Mason Williams
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 165
2010 4th Round, W Orange HS
Mason made a short debut back in the Gulf Coast League after being taken in the 4th round of the 2010 draft. He then moved on to Staten Island in 2011 where he hit for a .349/.395/.468/.863 quad slash, with 20 walks and 41 strikeouts in 269 AB’s. That works out to a .404 wOBA and 148 wRC+. He swiped 28 bags while getting caught a dozen times. 2012 found Mason in Charleston with several other of NY’s big prospects. Before getting promoted to Tampa Williams logged 276 AB’s, sporting a .304/.359/.489/.848 line, (.381 wOBA, 131 wRC+) with 21 walks and 33 K’s. His SB% fell a bit, getting caught 9 times while stealing 19 bases. His power started to come around though, going deep 8 times as opposed to only 3 in SI in a similar number of AB’s. His doubles power increased as well, from 11 in 2011 to 19. Mason, along with Sanchez and Austin earned himself a mid season promotion to High A Tampa. His stint in the FSL was short lived however, as Mason injured an already aggravated left shoulder and ended up having a torn labrum repaired, ending his 2012 campaign. He finished up in Tampa with 83 AB’s in which he hit .277/.302/.422/.724, a .331 wOBa and 104 wRC+. He suffered from a bit of a reverse platoon split in the second half, so those numbers and the smallish sample size, combined with him adjusting to a new level are likely a poor representation. In his roughly two years in the minors Williams was named to the SAL AS team, the MiL Org AS team, a Topps short season/rookie AS, BA short season AS, NYPL AS as well as a couple of player of the week awards.
Mason’s hit tool is easily his best asset. Strong forearms and wrists, simple swing that can get a little long at times but generally consistent. To this point he’s shown an innate ability to make contact, which has cut into his walks some. He’ll be challenged more as he sees better and better pitching and guys start to tempt him out of the zone, so he’ll have to adjust. He has a smooth swing with plus bat speed that he can keep in the zone, but can take a nit to get there. He does on occasion get an uppercut path going, possibly selling out in attempts to go deep. He can sometimes get ahead of himself at the plate, pulling his head and front shoulder off the ball as well as well as getting a little aggressive early in counts and going after some ugly pitches, but his flaws are easily correctable. All in all he has a nice loose easy swing and a great ability to barrel up the ball. He can hit line drives to all fields, as well as lay down a bunt for an infield single. Can handle breaking and offspeed pitches as well the fastball.
Power has been the question when referring to Mason’s bat, but that appears to be becoming less of an issue these days. When he was first brought in to the system, he was a rail thin kid that didn’t have much projection in him in the slugging department. That’s changed over the last season and rolling in to 2013, as he’s reportedly added about 30 pounds over that time and could add a bit more muscle yet. Combine some added raw strength with his bat speed and contact ability and you can see those power numbers going up as he moves along. Ultimately his potential lies in him getting stronger and refining his pitch selection, and from what we hear that’s beginning to unfold. Evaluators have him pegged anywhere from a 10-15 HR guy, to one that could top 20+ every year. As far as center fielders go that would be a nice addition to the lineup.
Williams shows plus to plus-plus speed in the outfield and on the bases, although his instincts and ability to get good jumps need a bit of refinement. On some plays in the field he’ll look like he’s knocking on the door of a fielding bible award, but he’ll sprinkle in a blooper reel play as well. Mason has excellent range and the ability to track balls, but is hampered by some inconsistent routes and trouble with balls hit straight over him. He also tends to go all out on plays that can lead to either a visit to the highlight reel or unnecessary extra bases. Over time his decision making should sharpen up, but I can’t say I don’t like a guy that will lay out to make the big play, so long as he’s not completely reckless in doing it. His baserunning is under aggressive at times and he needs to work on his jumps, but with work he could see SB totals in the 25-30 range at the ML level. Of all his tools, his arm is the least impressive. It currently grades out as average, having a long release, a ball that doesn’t carry well and throwing from a lower arm slot that tends to impart a natural run on his throws. Accuracy is not an issue, and adding some strength and getting on top of the ball more will help to correct that and get him into the above average realm. As it is he’s got enough for to play center, anything more is just gravy. Both his base stealing and defense rely more on his raw speed right now than technique, but he shows the plus side and simply needs to be more consistent. He has the potential to become a plus plus defender at a premium position and the ability to steal 25+ bags a year. The arm could use some improvement, but it not detrimental to him staying in center.
While Mason is advanced for his level, he still has some maturing to do. In scouring various articles and reports on him I ran into an account of him being cocky. Being the only source this came from i’m not sure if I buy it. What I have seen repeated by various sources is Mason’s tendency to get down on himself when things aren’t going well. Wether it’s acting out over frustration or failing to run out a routine pop out behind the plate, it’s something he needs to address. Being his own worst critic is one thing, but if it causes any sort of distraction or derails his focus then it becomes an issue. Again, we’re talking about a 19-20 year old, but the sooner he gets his emotions under wraps the better. He worked hard to get back in line following his surgery last year and is supposedly ready to start the season on time in the FSL, so his work ethic isn’t in question. He certainly has a good group of prospects around him, and a few who he’s come up through the system with so there’s the whole camaraderie and familiarity element with his teammates and some friendly competition amongst the teams best prospects that doesn’t hurt either.
Impressive young player. His combination of athleticism and advanced skills at a young age profile well. The fact that he has certain drawbacks yet still performs at the level he does is a good thing as it leaves ample room for further projection. A natural contact hitter that uses the whole field, hits for average and decent power while fielding an award capable glove at a premium position is something any club would sign up for. While he has some mechanical and maturity issues to correct, all of them are attainable fixes. Something along the lines of hitting .290-.300 with 20 HR’s and 40 doubles seems fair. With impressive contact skills but a yet to realize walk rate he may not be a top of the order high OBP guy, but might profile as a #2 or #5 type when all is said and done.
OK so any time anyone mentions comps it opens up the flood gates for scrutiny, but let’s go there anyway. At his best Mason could wind up being in Andrew McCutchen territory. If his body catches up to his physical skills it’s not insane to see him as that toolsy centerfield guy that can hit for average, has pop, can steal bases and play outstanding defense. On the low end you’re looking at a Brett Gardner type profile albeit with more power. Mason has a while to go, but has a pretty good chance to contribute to a major league ball club. His ceiling may fall a bit short of fellow CF’er Slade Heathcott, but his chances of achieving that potential are greater. If all goes well and Mason stays on the field, you could expect him to make a play for Trenton later this year, a cup of coffee in 2014, and a regular on the big club some time in 2015.