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Outfielder Justin Williams among Phillies non-roster invitees to minor league camp

Minor league pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report to Clearwater on Saturday. The list includes 192 players in total, according to Jim Peyton of Phuture Phillies. Previously reported non-roster invitees who could fight for a spot on the big league team once the lockout ends that are in minor league camp include pitchers Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bellatti, Kyle Dohy, Joe Gatto, Michael Kelly, Jake Newberry and infielders Yairo Muñoz and Josh Ockimey.

Justin Williams played for the Cardinals in 2021. (All-Pro Reels)

Count former Rays and Cardinals corner outfielder Justin Williams as a new addition to that list.

Williams, 26, played in 51 games with St. Louis last year. The results weren’t great as Williams slashed .160/.270/.261 with four home runs and 11 RBIs in 137 plate appearances. He struck out in a third of his at-bats and struggled to hit offspeed pitches. Ground balls account for more than 50% of his batted ball profile.

So why did the Phillies invite Williams to minor league camp? The former second-round pick in 2013 does have some raw power that should interest any team searching for underperforming talent to round out their depth in the upper minor leagues.

Former Phillies Nation contributor Robert Orr developed a metric called “damage rate” which attempts to measure current production and forecast future performance “based on exit velocity produced by both launch and spray angle.” In other words, if a hitter is able to consistently both hit the ball hard and at a very specific angle that usually leads to hits in the gap and home runs, that hitter is probably very good at his job. Established superstars — the Bryce Harpers of the world — are obviously among the best according to Orr’s damage rate statistic.

But there’s also another class of hitters who grade well but have some major flaws that need to be straightened out. For Baseball Prospectus, Orr built a model that attempts to predict possible breakout candidates — the next Tyler O’Neill or Austin Riley — and Williams, who had a 31.5% damage rate (77 batted balls) in 2021, was among them. I won’t dive too much into his model, but if you’re curious, you can read the full piece on Baseball Prospectus.

Whether the front office read the piece or the analytics department had a similar model that agrees with Orr’s findings, the cost of inviting a veteran like Williams who has struggled in the past, but has some upside is minimal.

The Phillies currently have six outfielders on the 40-man roster: Harper, Adam Haseley, Mickey Moniak, Símon Muzziotti, Jhailyn Ortiz and Matt Vierling.


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