Summary: Nonie has certainly had his share of ups and downs as a ball player, dating all the way back to high school. As a home school student, Nonie attended a class or two on campus at Turner High School in Kansas City (KS), in order to be eligible to play on their baseball team. Shortly before last season’s draft, Nonie spoke with scouts who had convinced him to take a couple of extra classes to graduate and declare himself as draft eligible as an 18 year old rather than at age 19 as he would have been this year. Williams’ raw skills were on display at scouting tournaments and major league organizations began to take notice of a kid that is built like a young A-Rod, is a switch hitter with tape measure power from both sides of the plate and was one of the fastest players in the draft.
The Angels may have selected him in the third round of the draft, but the consensus was that Williams likely could’ve gone near the first round last year or in the first round this year.
His first experience in the AZL last season didn’t go so well. Williams struggled against higher quality pitching, more specifically, strike zone management and while he was a big, athletic shortstop, his actions were very unrefined. So this past year Williams focused own improving his pitch recognitions, showing patience at the plate and cleaning up his footwork and actions at shortstop.
His second experience in the AZL didn’t go any better than the first. Nonie did improve his offensive skill set by taking more walks, but he also struck out more. And for all that power he has during batting practice, it hasn’t translated to the game yet. But at the very least we can say that Williams made himself into a better infielder. People that saw him play in the AZL last season indicate that his swing looked slow, and mechanical. A scout I spoke with said that Nonie was in the process of learning a new swing because the one he graduated from high school with was too long and just was not going to work at the upper levels. He’s opened his stance a little, has more bend in his knee, doesn’t bring his hands as far back, and doesn’t have the high leg kick and load that he did in high school.
However, from a scouting standpoint, it’s all still there. Williams has as much if not more bat speed than anyone in minor league baseball. His swing and strength rival that of Randal Grichuk when he was Williams’ age. In fact their general build and mannerisms are quite similar as well.
But patience is key with Nonie as he basically learns how to hit again and develops as a player.
And so it stands with Williams, he’s at a bit of a cross road heading into his third season of professional baseball. Nonie appears to be outgrowing the shortstop position as he is bigger and stronger than he was on draft day, so a move to third base or second base (or even the outfield) could be in the works. For now he still has the skill set to play a competent shortstop, though one wonders if that’s ultimately his defensive home. From an offensive standpoint, power is the last tool to develop and so we can’t expect Williams to suddenly grow into a power hitter overnight. However, that ability to does reside in his frame and potential. But Nonie will need to start making contact and getting on base with some regularity.
He isn’t running out of time at age 20. Not by any means. But Nonie has to show the ability to make the adjustments.
What to expect next season: The Angels may slot Williams back in the Arizona Rookie League for the third consecutive year, and they’d be justified in doing so based on his performance. Or if Williams does show considerable improvement coming into Spring Training, he could be headed to Orem for the higher level of Rookie Ball. After two seasons of professional ball and working with his swing, I expect Williams will show up to camp in a better position to compete and will find himself in Orem next season. Specifically, I’ll be looking for Williams to cut his K% and play with more fluidity and confidence. He’s been blessed with so much athletic ability, and one can get so caught up in coaches trying to implement different things, but at some point, Williams natural ability just has to take over.