When I first laid eyes on Justin Williams, I had the same reaction as many: GIMME. But after extensive research, I've become less enthusiastic on his 2013 Draft credentials.
The 17-year-old converted shortstop certainly looks the part, standing 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, consistently obliterating batting practice balls from the left side of the plate. Unfortunately, outside of Williams' raw power and size, his prospect resume is underwhelming.
Defensively, Williams projects as a right fielder, but fringe speed, an average arm and raw fundamentals may force him to slide down to first base, as he progresses through the Minors.
At the plate, there's serious concern as to whether Williams will make enough contact against advanced pitching. Although he swings and misses a lot, he is said to have a decent feel for the strikezone. Instead, his contact problem is contributed to his inability to adjust to off-speed pitches and inconsistent swing mechanics. Take a look at his swing (video below). He does something weird with his back leg, and I find him to look uncomfortable/off-balanced at times. His bat speed and swing strength are a plus.
Another red flag was raised when I read reports that Williams' power and athleticism "don't translate" to the baseball field. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement for a guy projected to go somewhere in the first round. I also downgraded him because his favorite band is Kings of Leon.
Although he's not as big, I see a little of newly-acquired Chris Carter in Justin Williams. Assuming Williams' arm and defensive fundamentals force him to first, he could wind up as a platoon-1B, ala Chris Carter – a high-strikeout guy, who hits the ball out of the ballpark when he connects.
Nelson Cruz, with a much weaker arm. If Williams reaches his full potential, he could be a middle-of-the-order hitter who hits .260 with 30 bombs annually. There's some hope his arm and defense improve, but he'll never have Cruz's cannon.
Projected Draft Round
The following is where the major outlets have him ranked as a player among other draftees: Keith Law (15), Baseball America (35), MLB.com (19), Minor League Ball (28). As you can see, he'll probably be drafted in the first round, although he's available for the Astros at 2.1.
College Commitment: LSU, Will He Sign?
There isn't much information out there on how committed Williams is to LSU. I assume he would sign, but want over-slot money.
Williams has raw power, winning the home run derbies at both the Perfect Game and Under Armour All-American games in August, with good bat speed and wrist strength, but is otherwise raw as a hitter and on defense.
Justin Williams is a 2013 OF/3B with a 6-3 215 lb. frame from Houma, LA who attends Terrebonne HS. Extra strong athletic build, room to get even stronger. Left handed hitter, explosive bat speed, upper deck power, showed game ability to shorten up and drive ball to the middle of the field, busy swing mechanics affect consistency, high ceiling hitter. 6.75 runner, loose arm action, tends to throw uphill, accurate arm, shows range, right field tools. Limited baseball experience compared to his peers, still learning the game, has the strength and athleticism to be a special talent. Verbal commitment to Louisiana State.
Justin Williams is probably the guy most scouts would tell you flashed the most offensive potential of any player at the Petco Game. I'd tell you the same thing. He's just a baby and you can dream big grades on power production numbers. He's not a burner but he runs enough for a corner and maybe you can squeak an average run grade out of him, from time to time, in the coming years, as he gets stronger. He's got the length for it. Arm is just a shade below average, should play up to average. The big park tells you a lot. I don't want any mail saying I'm dissing the arm. To me, a 45 and a 50 are still too different things, a 4 is not a 5 just because there are so few 5 outfield arms anymore. From the BP film, he looks a little Klesko-ish to me. Hands work, likes to murder high mistakes, but showed he could control the bat against hard sink in the game. So, all in all, that's a pretty good package, the kind of guy you say, as a scout, well "even if I don't get the guy, he was worth the drive to see."Like many high schoolers, Williams made the rounds over the summer, playing in the Perfect Game National Showcase, the East Coast Pro Showcase, the Under Armour All-American Game and the Perfect Game All-American Classic.
Big and strong, Williams has tremendous raw power as a left-handed hitter and will put on some ridiculous BP sessions. It doesn't always show up in games, though, and he doesn't show confidence on the field consistently.
He has tools, but he's still raw and will have to show an ability to use them to remain high on Draft boards in the spring.
Williams went 1-for-2 with a walk in the Perfect Game Classic, though he was more potential than performance over the summer.
At the plate is where Williams makes his mark. His big lefthanded power launched homers into the upper deck at the Metrodome at the PG National showcase. He has a quick, simple swing that can get around on velocity and punish balls in batting practice. He has a simple leg lift as the pitch comes in which I like, but he also lifts his back leg just before that, and that needs to be corrected. This is a very small thing but could hinder him against better pitching.
Williams is a physical specimen with impressive power from the left side. A good athlete at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Williams has broad shoulders and a tapered waist. He plays some third base for his high school, but profiles best as a corner outfielder. Williams is a fringe-average runner, but should be able to man right field thanks to his solid arm strength. His arm should improve, too, as he gets on a throwing program and learns how to crow hop. At the plate, the Louisiana State recruit shows a keen eye for the strike zone. He has some of the best raw power in the class, but it's unclear how much of that he'll be able to tap into because he swings and misses a lot and tends to slow his bat down on offspeed pitches.
Below is my own personal Big Board, based on the prospects I've researched thus far:
2013 Big Board (2/19/13)