Originally drafted as a fourth round pick in 2010, Mason Williams quickly turned himself into a highly-regarded prospect by hitting .349/.395/.468 in the New York Penn League in 2011 -- good enough to earn him the #85 spot on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list. Williams continued his hot hitting in 2012 by hitting .304/.359/.489 over 69 games in Low-A Charleston, which earned him a promotion to High-A Tampa. Unfortunately, his season came to an end 22 games later when he dislocated his shoulder and required surgery to repair his torn labrum. His abbreviated 2012 was enough to win over the hearts of prospect evaluators as Williams jumped to #32 on Baseball America's list heading into 2013.
Tampa/Trenton (A+/AA): 117 G, .244/.303/.336, 24 2B, 4 HR, 14.7% K%, 95 wRC+ (A+)
After an offseason of recovery, Williams returned to high-A Tampa in 2013 and took a pretty big step backwards at the plate, hitting a punchless .261/.327/.350. The biggest disappointment was his power output, which completely flat-lined compared to his 2012 campaign. A silver lining was that he managed to post a respectable 8.5% walk rate, which was higher than we had seen from him in the low minors. Apparently this new-found patience was enough to earn him a late-season promotion to Double-A Trenton where he appeared completely over-matched in 17 games, though he did perform a little better in the Eastern League playoffs. Williams had a rough year off the field as well: Williams was busted for DUI back in April, which has caused some to wonder about the 21-year-old's maturity.
Williams will return to Trenton this year and will hopefully make some much needed improvements to his offensive game. As we've seen with Michael Pineda, it can take a while to fully recover from a torn labrum, which might explain Williams' down year in 2013. That injury's pretty far in the rearview mirror now, and unlike last year, he's had the full off-season to get in shape. So maybe we'll see some of his power return. Williams might find himself in Triple-A Scranton before the year's out, but a 2014 promotion is far from guaranteed following last year's performance. Even if he does earn a mid-season promotion to Triple-A, that's probably as far as he'll go. Unless there's a pressing need and Williams is really tearing the cover off the ball, we probably won't see him in the Bronx until 2015.
Even though Williams has started to sputter offensively, he's still a top-flight defender in center field by all accounts, which keeps him very much on the prospect radar. Yet despite his defensive prowess, Williams will need to take some steps forward offensively to be an impact player in the majors. Williams is only 22, so he could obviously still improve, but he's starting to look more like a light-hitting fourth outfielder than the center fielder of the future. Frankly, it's hard to look at his 2013 stats without thinking "Endy Chavez" -- hopefully that's not the case this time next year.