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.
UPDATE (5/30): Williams has really become an afterthought in the draft process. When I first began my 2013 research, he was widely projected to go in the first round, and some were even touting him at a darkhorse candidate to go number one overall. Now he'd be lucky to be drafted in the second round. He's most likely to go between rounds 3-5 and attend college.
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.
UPDATE (5/30): Assuming Williams is good enough to make the Major Leagues someday, Carter is a fair floor. Both converted shortstop possess mammouth raw power, but don't hit enough to showcase is on a regular basis.
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.
UPDATE (5/30): I doubt Williams ever amounts to anything close to Nelson Cruz. I don't have a specific player, but I think his Major League ceiling is a bottom-of-the-order hitter with the chance to "run into one" every once in a while, and average defense in a corner OF spot.
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.
UPDATE (5/30): Some team may fall in love with his power and take him in the second, but I doubt it. He'll go anywhere from rounds 3-5.
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.
UPDATE (5/30): He's going to LSU, as he should. He needs work.
Like many high schoolers, Williams made the rounds over this past 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.
His performance this spring has been just OK, but there's still a lot to like with one of the youngest players in the Draft class.
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 still be only 17 on Draft day. A team who thinks those tools will develop will take a chance on him in June.