Ah, the shadows. A place on doesn’t typically like to find themselves. In books, that is where the shiftier characters lay, looking back and forth with narrowed eyes, looking for someone to swindle.
But if you look in these shadows in Philadelphia, particularly the Hoskins-sized one being cast on the current roster, you’ll find another Phillies rookie having a surprisingly solid rookie season as well. It’s where Nick Williams currently resides, but through no fault of his own.
Before Sunday’s game, Nick Williams’ line sat at a healthy .282/.347/.481 in 202 plate appearances since being recalled on June 30. Prior to that, he was hitting .280/.328/.511 with 15 home runs and 44 runs batted in for Lehigh Valley. Though he was disappointed at not being recalled last year, he took the opportunity to work on things he was asked to work on and improved as a player. When he was ready, he was brought up and he has flourished since.
His numbers since coming up have been some of the best numbers a Phillies rookie has posted in team history. When looking through the Baseball Reference Play Index for Phillies rookies, you find that he’s putting together an inaugural season that rivals any in team history. The following is a list of Phillies rookies who have hit at least .270/.340/.450 in 200 plate appearances in a season:
There are some impressive names here, names that mean a lot in Phillies history. There are also people that I’ll bet you’ve never heard of unless you’re a relative of Buzz Arlett. This doesn’t really tell us much since it’s for a total season and Williams still has around 120 more plate appearances left in the season. His numbers could fall below one of these thresholds, but still, it’s impressive nonetheless.
What’s even more impressive is how he’s stacking up against rookies across the league. Now, I’ll preface this by saying there are two first-year players who stand head and shoulders above pretty much anyone in Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger. Williams’s season isn’t in the same class as them. Yet if you factor those two out, “Nicky Dubs” is making quite a name for himself.
For the 33 rookies with at least 200 plate appearances this year (again, all stats through Saturday’s games), here is where he ranks in key offensive production categories:
Williams vs. the rookies
There are a lot of positives here, but also a blemish or two. The positives are that he has been an amazingly productive offensive player. He’s developing into the type of offensive weapon the team envisioned when they included him in the Cole Hamels trade. His walk rate in encouragingly higher than many thought it might be, especially when that was the main concern for him when he did ascend to the major leagues. He’s striking out a lot, but he’s always going to be an aggressive hitter at the plate. As long as he keeps working on the patience he is showing, his ceiling as a player will no longer look as unreachable as it did during his darker days last year.
The WAR total might bum some people out, but there aren’t many available statistics that rate him as a positive defender. Fangraphs “credits” him with -10 defensive runs save as an outfielder.
- Right field: -6 DRS in 225 innings
- Center field: -4 DRS in 85 innings
- Left field: 0 DRS in 88 innings
From those totals, it’s apparent that left field is his best position and it lines up with the possible defensive alignment for 2018 if they go with Williams in left, Odubel Herrera in center and Aaron Altherr in right. If they chose to do this to finish out this season when Herrera and Altherr return from injury, that forces Hoskins to first base, which in turn forces Tommy Joseph to the bench. This would represent the team’s best chance at winning baseball games and playing the spoiler in September.
With all of the hoopla (rightfully so) being directed at Rhys Hoskins right now, it’s easy to forget that Williams is also having a fine inaugural campaign. If the two of them are able to finish the season strong, then the light at the end of the rebuilding tunnel that we as Phillies fans have so desperately searched for will continue to get brighter and brighter