Nick Williams is just about ready to play for the Phillies.
The slugging outfield prospect acquired in the Cole Hamels trade is playing well in triple-A Lehigh Valley, igniting a flurry of discussion about his impending arrival in Philadelphia. It’s going to happen, and soon. But when? And what happens?
Williams has been hot for about a month. Since May 22, he’s hitting .331 with a .388 on-base percentage and .570 slugging percentage, plus four home runs, 13 doubles and two triples. He’s also increased his walk rate to 1/13.4 plate appearances, well better than the 1/21.2 appearances he registered before May 22.
Overall this year Williams is hitting .290/.333/.467 with seven homers, 17 doubles and four triples. He still strikes out a bunch, but the rates are decreasing. And he can play all outfield positions, though a corner is the best bet.
Considering the Phillies’ poor offensive play, Williams has been suggested as a reinforcement to join the team as early as now. But it’s hard to see that happening yet. Odubel Herrera (.298/.391/.425) – recent hiccups aside – is still a necessary everyday start. Tyler Goeddel (.232/.279/.362) has flashed potential, though in limited time because of Cody Asche’s recent return. And Asche (.278/.325/.472) has played fairly well.
Meanwhile, Peter Bourjos has quietly been the Phils’ top hitter over the last few weeks. Now at .250/.284/.367, he’s hitting .486/.525/.730 since June 12 (41 appearances).
You could toss Jimmy Paredes out (.205/.222/.341), but that won’t help Williams at all. The reason you bring up Williams is to insert him in the starting lineup.
Preferably – if you’re completely thinking about developing young talent – the Phillies would be starting an outfield of Goeddel, Herrera and Williams, but Asche and Bourjos present obstacles right now.
Bourjos is more cut and dry: He’s likely having a hot streak and will cool down. Plus, he was to fill the fourth outfielder job until the Phils could potentially deal him to a contender around the trade deadline. It remains to be seen whether the Phils can get much value for Bourjos, but there’s little chance he remains on the roster through the 162nd game.
Asche is different. With more than 1,100 plate appearances under his belt, the third-baseman-turned-outfielder should be a known quantity. But the 26-year-old is in his first full season as an outfielder. Defense isn’t so important for Asche now, and with a greater focus on the bat, he has demonstrated plenty extra-base-hit power in his 77 appearances this season. He can’t yet be excluded.
There’s another wrench: Aaron Altherr. His wrist injury is healing well, and he says he’s looking to return this season. Whether he returns in July or September, Altherr probably will have a minuscule impact on this year’s outfield situation. The Phils could keep him in triple-A if he returns early, then bring him up in September with the rest of the callups.
Either way, he’ll be coming into a potentially crowded situation. Until the Phillies make a move with an existing starter or fringe starter (Asche, Bourjos), Williams won’t be wearing pinstripes.
But once he’s here, a combination of Herrera, Williams, Goeddel, Altherr, possibly Asche, and maybe Roman Quinn will force the Phillies’ hand sooner than later.