Prior to the 2016 MLB season, Baseball America ranked Philadephia Phillies outfielder Nick Williams the #27 overall prospect in the game, with MLB Pipeline pretty well in-line in their evaluation. It was that kind of hype that had led the Phils to take him as the lead player in the July 2015 trade that saw staff ace Cole Hamels dealt the other way to the Texas Rangers, and it wasn’t as if Williams was just some flash in the pan, either - he’d been a 2nd round pick by Texas back in 2012, too.
The prospect hype and pre-majors resume is certainly there for Williams, now 26. But after posting a respectable 105 OPS+ and 29 dingers across 223 big league games in his first two MLB seasons, his production vanished in 2019, as he limped to just a .151/.196/.245 line in 112 PA. Between that and the Phils’ need for a roster spot, Philadelphia designated him for assignment earlier this week.
As it turns out, the Cincinnati Reds were interested, and according to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury, the Reds claimed him on Saturday.
Hearing Nick Williams claimed by Reds on waivers. Talented player had been looking for fresh start.— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyNBCS) August 15, 2020
Williams is primarily a RF, though he’s spent time in all three OF positions. That said, defensive metrics largely abhor his output with the glove at every position, so that’s something the Reds will have to work around should his offense flip the switch again and warrant a spot on the active roster.
That’s a pertinent caveat, by the way. Williams still has an option left, so the Reds can stash him at Prasco for depth for the time being, something they could use after having lost Scott Schebler via trade and, perhaps, another ‘outfielder’ to this positive COVID-19 test result.
While not the sexiest of pickups, few are at the time of transaction. Philadelphia sent him packing just days ago, for Jeff’s sake. Still, it’s a former top prospect who’s a couple weeks younger than Jesse Winker, who we’ve just started to see come into his own, and waiver claims have certainly uncovered gems in the past. Scooter Gennett comes to mind in recent Reds history, while the likes of Edwin Encarnacion, Justin Smoak, Jose Bautista, Christian Walker, and countless others have gone on to have fruitful careers after being waived by former franchises.
Hopefully, we can one day add Nick Williams to that list.