Name: Jett Williams
Weight: 175 lbs.
Acquired: 2022 MLB Draft, 1st Round (Rockwall-Heath High School, Texas)
2023 Stats: 79 G, 261 AB, .249/.422/.410, 65 H, 12 2B, 6 3B, 6 HR, 69 BB, 76 K, 32/38 SB, .322 BABIP (Single-A)/36 G, 127 AB, .299/.451/.567, 38 H, 9 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 33 BB, 32 K, 12/13 SB, .352 BABIP (High-A)/6 G, 22 AB, .227/.308/.273, 5 H, 1 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 2 BB, 10 K, 1/1 SB, .385 BABIP (Double-A)
Jett Williams has always been one of the smaller people on the field, if not the smallest. Those who have doubted him because of his smaller statue have given Williams a chip on his shoulder and have fueled him since his days playing little league. In high school, he made the Rockwall-Heath High School varsity baseball team as a freshman and helped lead them to state playoffs in virtually every season that he played for the Hawks. In his junior and senior years, arguably the most important for a high school player, he hit .347 with 5 home runs and 15 stolen bases and .411 with 7 home runs and 24 stolen bases, respectively.
The hard work he put in paid off, as he was considered one of the best talents available in the 2022 MLB Draft. With their second first-round pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, the 14th overall pick, the Mets selected Williams. He signed roughly a week later, forgoing his commitment to Mississippi State University, agreeing to a $3,900,000 bonus, a few hundred thousand dollars less than the MLB-assigned slot value of $4,241,600. The 18-year-old was assigned to the FCL Mets to begin his professional career and appeared in 10 games for them in the month of August, hitting .250/.366/.438 with 1 home run, 6 stolen bases in as many attempts, and drawing 4 walks to 6 strikeouts. That winter, Amazin’ Avenue ranked Jett Williams the Mets’ 5th best prospect.
Williams began the 2023 season assigned to the St. Lucie Mets and played there until the end of July, when he was promoted to the Brooklyn Cyclones. In those 79 games, he hit a respectable .249/.422/.410 with 12 doubles, 6 triples, 6 home runs, 32 stolen bases in 38 attempts, and 69 walks to 76 strikeouts. While many hitters struggle when sent to Brooklyn, it was quite the opposite for Williams.
On August 1, in his first game in a Cyclones jersey, he went 1-2 with a double, a stolen base, and 3 walks to 1 strikeout. In that first series, against the Jersey Shore BlueClaws, he went .294/.539/.353 in 6 games with a double, 3 stolen bases in 4 attempts, and 8 walks to 6 strikeouts. In the 36 he played for Brooklyn, he hit .299/.451/.567 with 9 doubles, 2 triples, 7 home runs, 12 stolen bases in 13 attempts, and 33 walks to 32 strikeouts. In mid-September, Williams was promoted to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies to finish the year and went 5-22 with them, hitting 1 double, stealing 1 base, and walking twice to 10 strikeouts. All in all, Jett Williams appeared in 121 games and hit a combined .263/.425/.451 with 22 doubles, 8 triples, 13 home runs, 45 stolen bases in 52 attempts, and 104 walks to 118 strikeouts. His 104 walks led the system and in doing so, the 19-year-old became the first teen to lead the Mets minor league system in walks since David Wright did so in 2002.
The 5’6” Williams stands square at the plate, holding his hands high and his angling his bat at 12:30. He swings with a big leg kick and a short-levered swing that is quick to the ball. Jett is perilously close to the ideal modern position player prospect. He hits the ball hard on average for a 20-year-old, with ideal vertical and horizontal spray. While he may be on the shorter side for what is considered viable in professional baseball, Williams is athletic and has strong arms and a thick lower body. Thanks to plus bat speed, Williams makes a lot of hard contact, with fine-but-not-exactly-good-top-end exit velocities; in 184 recorded batted ball events with the St. Lucie Mets in 2023, he posted 35 readings over 100 MPH and 101 readings over 90 MPH, with the single highest reading being a 106.3 MPH groundball single.
More than the quibbles around passivity or defensive home, the raw power projection will be the driving factor behind Jett’s ultimate value. For reference, the only current major leaguers listed at 5’6” are Jose Altuve and Tony Kemp, and the former is the only player with any sort of high-end production at 5’6” or shorter in the last ~30 years. Altuve has typically run max exit velocities of 106-110 MPH, and Jett is currently living at the bottom of that range. Kemp, on the other hand, has never hit a ball harder than 104 MPH in the big leagues.
Far from a one-dimensional pull-and-lift slugger, Williams uses the entire field, pulling the ball at a 45.2% rate, going back up the middle at a 28.1% rate, and going to the opposite field at a 26.7% rate. While there are certainly more factors than how he used the field, Williams’ late swoon in Binghamton coincided with a stark shift in how he hit the ball, with his pull percentage ballooning to 53.8% and his opposite field percentage dropping to 15.4%.
He makes high quality swing decisions, rarely expanding the zone and showing a willingness to lay off pitches he knows he can’t hit. Thanks to a good eye and quick hands, he regularly puts good wood on both premium velocity and advanced spin. There have been some instances where Williams has struggled against on velocity up in the zone, but it hasn’t been enough of a problem to hinder the overall production so far and the requisite bat speed to adjust is there. In fact, in theory, his smaller stature should actually is a boon in this regard if he shows the ability to adjust, as his compact frame should help him get on top of letter-high fastballs and stuff at the knees with equal adroitness.
At times with St. Lucie, his approach tended a bit too passive, which led to both good and bad results; His season culminated in a walk rate of roughly 20% and he led the Florida State League in lowest chase rate, but his strikeout rate was slightly higher, and his name was also high up the leader board in hittable pitch take rate. He seemed to get more aggressive when promoted to the Brooklyn Cyclones, and virtually all of his offensive numbers took an upturn as a result.
On top of his above-average hit tool and average power, Williams possesses plus speed. He put it to good use in 2023, stealing 45 bases in 52 attempts, an 86.5% success rate. He pushes the envelope on the basepaths, legging out doubles, taking extra bases, and challenging outfielders.
Drafted as a shortstop, Williams played the majority of his games there in 2023. Coming into the season, there were questions as to whether or not he would be able to stick at shortstop, as an injured shoulder during his junior and senior seasons of high school clouded his true arm strength and accuracy. At the time he was drafted, some scouts and evaluators believed that he was playing compromised to a degree, and that when fully healthy, his arm would be solid average for the position. Others believed that his arm would not get stronger and that he would eventually be forced from the position due to fringy arm strength. With exactly 100 games under his belt at short, it is becoming a little clearer that his arm is indeed on the fringier side for a shortstop. That does not mean, however, that Williams will not be able to play the position for years to come. He made many strides in 2023 in other aspects of the position, including footwork and glovework, and with continued work should be able to handle the routine plays and then some for years to come-especially with the excellent range his plus speed and athleticism affords him.
While Williams hasn’t played any second base as a professional yet, he made 21 starts in center field, and being able to play center is a much more attractive alternative to second. His plus speed and athleticism are once again excellent boons, as he has shown plenty of range and afterburners to close in on balls. Obviously new to the position, he will have to refine his read of the ball off the bat and the routes he chooses to take to the ball, but these are aspects of the position that come with time and experience.
Adding raw power while maintaining and refining his approach will be key for Jett in 2024 as he tackles the upper minors. If he can wring a little more raw juice out of his frame while slightly increasing his aggression without ballooning his strikeout rate, the realistic upside scenarios go from “good player” to “multiple All Star appearances”. Keep in mind just how hard that’s been for this sort of player historically though – Jose Altuve is the only example and he’s going to the Hall of Fame someday. The more realistic outcome is still a very good player, one with more limited power but strong on base skills and solid defense at an up the middle position. That’s still someone the Mets or any other team would love to have.