“I would say the last month of the season I was thinking about the big leagues way too much,” Nick Williams said in an interview with me last September, before a home playoff game against Scranton. How could you blame the 23-year-old for not having the big club on his mind, after hitting .283 with eight home runs and 43 RBI at the triple-A all-star break? But, to Williams’ own admission, he lost focus of the task at hand. To finish the season, the outfielder posted a .179 average in August and worked just one walk. A September call up was not in the cards.
Williams has brought a different attitude to Lehigh Valley this year.
“No, I don’t think about it. It’s not my decision,” Williams said when asked about being called up to the big leagues in an interview Saturday at Dynasty Sports and Framing in the Oxford Valley Mall. “Last year, I was thinking about it way too much and it affected me late in the season.”
He’s currently hitting .254/.298/392 with three home runs and 13 RBI in his second full season at triple-A. Is he feeling more comfortable?
“Yeah, for sure,” he said. “It looked all too familiar, but just getting in a groove right now.”
Even with a recent slump, Williams has been finding that groove against left-handed pitching. At the time of the interview on Saturday, Williams was hitting lefties at a .255 clip, up from last season’s final tally.
“I’m competing more,” the outfield prospect said. “Really going to the game of chess with them. It’s early in the season, so I’m not thinking of results or anything. I’m just taking pitches and battling. I’m just trying to figure out what they’re trying to do.”
Williams is right. It’s imperative for a left-handed hitter to play a “game of chess” with left-handed pitchers. That’s the only way to be in at-bats. But it doesn’t seem that approach has translated consistently, if going by the numbers. He has walked just six times in 137 plate appearances so far this season, and three of them are against left-handed pitching. The lack of consistency is what could be holding the young outfielder back.
Nevertheless, Williams has learned from his past mistakes regarding his focus. He did get some feedback on what the big leagues is like from Lehigh Valley teammates Roman Quinn and Jake Thompson, who had cups of coffee with the Phillies last year (Thompson did this year, too).
“They all just talk about the life up there. Whatever you need, it’s just right there.”