One of the explicitly stated purposes of MLB’s rules changes for the 2023 season was to help players show off their athleticism on the field. For all that has gone wrong for the Mets in 2023, one thing they did not do during the last offseason was get more athletic.
However, the good news is that there are some of those players on the way. Many have been calling for Ronny Mauricio to be called up from Triple-A Syracuse for a few weeks now, but beyond him there are a lot of young, athletic players in the minor leagues, including 19-year-old shortstop Jett Williams, who just a few weeks into his High-A career with the Brooklyn Cyclones has been impressing.
Baseball America ranks Williams as the No. 4 prospect in the organization, behind trade deadline acquisitions Luisangel Acuna, Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford. If not for the Mets sell-off in July, he would be the top prospect in the organization, and BA slots him in 97th overall across the entire sport. Taken 14th overall with the Mets second pick in the 2022 First-Year Player Draft, Williams is the kind of versatile and athletic player that fits in perfectly with the direction that the game is going.
After posting a .249/.422/.410 line in 79 games with Single-A St. Lucie, Williams has played in 18 games with the Cyclones and is batting a robust .312/.462/.574 while playing both shortstop and center field. Split between both levels he has stolen 39 bases in 46 attempts, an 84.8% success rate.
Lauded for his pitch recognition and bat-to-ball skills, he has struck out 92 times while drawing 85 walks – eighth-most among all minor leaguers, while his season-long OBP is in the top 20 of qualified minor leaguers. Among teenagers in MiLB with at least 400 plate appearances, his OBP is second to only overall No. 1 prospect Jackson Holliday.
His swing is compact and quick to the ball, and he sprays the ball around the field well, including hitting for some noticeable power to the pull side. A decent comparison from recent years is former Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. His 5-foot-8 stature and overall offensive profile fit well with that – good bat-to-ball and on-base skills, will hit for some power, but will probably never be an elite power threat.
That being said, last week in Maimondes Park he launched two home runs to left field, and neither were cheapies – one cleared the videoboard in left-center, a shot of over 400 feet, and the other disappeared into trees that are about 15 feet beyond the left field wall. Neither of the home runs came off back-end of the bullpen guys either – both pitchers he took deep rank inside the Yankees top 25 prospects.
Defensively, Williams made all the plays but his range and arm strength are best suited for a move to second base in the long term. Seeing him for one game in center field last week, he has the speed and athleticism to handle that position on a fill-in basis, but one shouldn’t expect for him to become a Ben Zobrist-type super-utility player.
Naturally there is a high risk level for a 19-year-old in his first season of professional baseball. There is so much that can happen over the next few years as he continues to develop, but what he is doing in High-A should be very exciting, especially considering he is two years younger than the league average player.
Even if Williams is still not on track to debut until 2025, when he will be 21 years old, that is right on track with the next wave of the Mets youth movement. With him and other young, athletic players on the way, the Mets very soon will a crop of exciting, homegrown players leading them into contention.