After trading away Dexter Fowler, the St. Louis Cardinals have room in the outfield. Could Justin Williams carve out a role?
Justin Williams will come into Spring Training later this month as one of the St. Louis Cardinals’ top outfield prospects.
He appears to be vying for one of the outfield slots with Harrison Bader, Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson, Lane Thomas, and Austin Dean. However, you can pretty much pencil in Bader in center, O’Neill in left, and Carlson in right. But, if Williams puts up a good showing in Spring, he could outduel his competition or become a backup bench option with the big club.
Williams was drafted in the second round of the 2013 Amateur Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He made his major league debut with a one-game call-up by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018. In July 2018, Williams was one of the pieces the Cardinals received in the trade of Tommy Pham to Tampa Bay.
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While most of his time has been spent in the minor leagues, Williams got to spend time with the Cardinals in 2020 as part of their taxi squad. In six MLB plate appearances in 2020, he batted .200/.333/.200 with a .264 wOBA and .333 BABIP. While Williams filled in a role during his 2020 stint, this was not really an opportunity to show he could make a long term impact with the team.
In 2021, it appears ZiPS has high hopes for Williams. They have him in 101 games with 386 plate appearances. ZiPS predicts he will hit .245/.299/.386 with a .685 OPS, .306 BABIP, 25.4 K%, and a 6.7 BB%.
While this is just a projection for 2021, it indicates they believe this is entirely plausible for Williams to make an impact.
An outfield of Bader, O’Neill, and Carlson sounds great defense wise, but it’s a little concerning on the offense side. While it shouldn’t be the case, I am glad to see that there is some hope for Williams to provide an impactful bat.
The outfield could be one of the more intriguing situations as we go through Spring Training. Get your popcorn ready!