Better Late Than Never

Back in the early days of 2013, optimistic Yankees fans envisioned an outfield circa 2015 of homegrown players. The Yankees had three outfielders ranked among the Top-100 prospects in baseball by Baseball America. Tyler Austin was ranked 73rd and envisioned as the right fielder of the future. Slade Heathcott was ranked 63rd and penciled in to left. Highest-rated of all was Mason Williams, 32nd, a speedy center fielder who could play defense with the best of them and hit for average and some power.

But baseball doesn’t work that way. Disappointing 2013 campaigns by the trio were followed by bad 2014 campaigns. Austin had to repeat AA and while he improved his numbers, the prospect label was no longer applied to him. Heathcott fell so far that he was removed from the 40-man roster, but came back on a minor-league deal. Williams, coming off a sub-.600 OPS at Trenton, seemed like a lock to be exposed to the Rule 5 draft, but the Yankees added him to the 40-man roster instead. It’s a good thing they did.

We saw Heathcott for a moment after Ellsbury went down and he didn’t disappoint. He went 6-for-17 with a double and a homer, but as he has been apt to do in his career, he got hurt and left us wanting more. Tonight we get to see the second of this former trio of prospects when Mason Williams makes his debut in center, batting ninth.

Mason stormed into the picture with a complete rebound from 2014. In 2014 he put up an anemic line of .223/.290/.304 at AA. In 2015 he hit .317/.407/.375 before getting promoted to AAA. There he hit .321/.382/.432 and now he is in the Bronx. And while he isn’t the prospect the Yankees thought they had in 2013, it is worth remembering he is still only 23. He has taken a winding path to the majors, but now he has a chance to show he belongs there. It should be fun to watch.