Shortstop is one of the deepest positions inside the Yankees farm system. By investing high draft picks and significant international signing bonus money on the position, the Yankees have built solid depth that will stretch from High-A Tampa all the way to the lower levels of rookie ball.
This position is known for hosting some of the best athletes on the field, and drafting a capable shortstop is almost never a bad idea, as they usually have the tools to play multiple positions around the diamond. One of the better shortstop options on the table for the Yankees this coming draft is Alika Williams from Arizona State University.
In our first draft preview for 2020, we looked at Arizona State third baseman Gage Workman, a solid draft candidate in his own right. Capable of playing shortstop, Workman was bounced to the hot corner by Alika Williams. Williams is no stranger to the Yankees and their scouts as they used a late round pick on him in the 2017 draft when he was coming out of high school. Those types of late round picks are often justified by teams as they try to make in-roads with a talented player who has indicated he is on his way to college and a better draft position three years down the road. In a shortened draft, any extra knowledge that the Yankees have on Williams could be a deciding factor for them to pick him.
Coming out of high school, scouts wanted to see Williams get stronger, and he appeared to show that during his last full season in 2019, when he raised his slugging percentage significantly from .333 as a freshman to .474. He makes a ton of contact with gap-to-gap power that could develop into something similar to Trea Turner.
Considering their recent acquisitions, the Yankees have appeared to favored players with a strong hit tool. High draft picks like fellow shortstops Anthony Volpe and Josh Smith have an outstanding ability to make contact, while not projecting as elite power hitters or runners. This trait was also identified in Alexander Vargas before the Yankees gave him a $2.5 million signing bonus on the international market. Getting the bat on the ball is something that Williams excels at, with only 49 strikeouts in 549 college plate appearances. While making consistent contact, Williams also drew 55 walks and has a .383 career OBP during his time at ASU.
Coming off his outstanding sophomore season at Arizona State where he produced a .903 OPS, Williams headed to the Cape Cod League for a brief stint this last summer. After just nine games on the Cape, he was selected to play for Team USA’s collegiate team. In 14 games for Team USA he finished second on the team with a .364 batting average and .545 slugging percentage.
Defensively Williams has all of the tools to remain as a average to above average shortstop long term. Scouts mention that he has a great first step, soft hands and footwork that will allow him play the position all the way to the major league level. His arm is average, but more than adequate for a shortstop with a quick release like he has.
Williams will likely be available to the Yankees when they draft 28th overall. He is ranked as the 34th best prospect by Baseball America, and 38th by MLB Pipeline.
In the coming draft where the Yankees may have as few as three total picks, they very likely could choose a player that they know they will be comfortable with. After originally selecting Alika Williams out of high school, they have seen him continue to develop and improve at the collegiate level. The Yankees may double down on one of the strengths of their system and add another quality shortstop to the organization.