Once one of the top prospects in the entire Philadelphia Phillies organization, outfielder Nick Williams didn’t make the 2020 opening day 30-man roster. Frankly, it would have been surprising if the Phillies had kept the 26-year-old on Joe Girardi’s roster to begin the season.
While Williams will continue to train at Lehigh Valley, Kyle Garlick – a 28-year-old outfielder that has played in just 30 games at the major league roster – made the opening day roster. Phil Gosselin, who still has to be added to the 40-man roster, will make the team, general manager Matt Klentak confirmed on Thursday.
The Phillies are aware of the perception that it feels like Williams has long since reached a crossroads.
“Joe and I spent a lot of time with Nick yesterday talking to him about that when we met with him to tell him about the roster move,” Klentak said Thursday. “I really like Nick Williams, and there are a lot of people in this organization that do. And I know that the last year-and-a-half for him has been challenging, really starting with when we signed [Andrew] McCutchen and then [Bryce] Harper. That put Nick in a much different position than he’d been the prior year. We still believe in his talent…we still believe in the person…but unfortunately, the landscape of the outfield situation with the Phillies has changed in the last couple years and it’s been a difficult situation for him.
“We were very open with Nick yesterday, and he was very open with us – in a really productive…and professional…and respectful way in both directions. We’re gonna take it day by day. But he’s still a guy that we really do think is talented and has a bright future.”
In these conversations, did Williams indicate the desire for a change of scenery?
“He did not say that, but we kind of talked about a variety of things,” Klentak added. “Again, I fully appreciate the difficulty of the roster situation for a guy like him right now. Joe and I have talked about it with Nick. Joe and I have talked about it on our own just between the two of us.
“I will also tell you that I got a glimpse yesterday into how good Joe Girardi is in player meetings…in having tough conversations with players like that one with Nick. His experience and his care for humans really came out in that meeting.”
Given that the Phillies need to open up a 40-man roster spot for Gosselin before tomorrow evening’s season opener, it’s entirely possible that this situation has a quick solution, one that would involve the Phillies outrighting Williams. Presumably, there would be interest in Williams if he were exposed to waivers.
If he remains in the Phillies organization and waits for an opportunity, it’s possible 2020 could turn into a lost season for Williams, the last remaining piece from the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade with the Texas Rangers. Even if there were injuries in the outfield, Williams didn’t make the 30-man roster, so it’s hard to envision him cracking the roster as it reduces to 28 two weeks into the season and eventually 26 a month into the season. There also aren’t any minor league games – beyond intrasquad or simulated games – for him to potentially get hot and force the Phillies’ hand.
Williams made his Major League Debut with the Phillies in June of 2017, and provided a spark to a stagnant lineup. In 313 at-bats in 2017, Williams slashed .288/.338/.473 with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs. Unfortunately for Williams, that has been the peak of his career to this point.
Neither he or Aaron Altherr truly seized the starting right field job in 2018, though Williams did find some success as a pinch hitter. That success didn’t carry over to 2019, though, as Williams hit just .128 as a pinch hitter, a role he was largely confined to after the team added both McCutchen and Harper in free agency.
It hasn’t helped Williams that he doesn’t really play center field and has -21 career defensive runs saved in right field.
Williams does carry noticeable power, especially to left-center field. He is a major leaguer, though certainly Ruben Amaro Jr.’s front office hoped for more when they put him at the forefront of one of the most important trade returns in team history.
For now, it appears that if Williams ever develops into a star at the major league level, it’s unlikely to be with the Phillies.
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