Nick Williams' bat speed and athleticism have long enticed scouts and made him a highly-touted prospect.
But Williams took some real steps forward at Triple A this season, steps he wouldn't have been called up without taking.
This remains the biggest question mark with Williams. Like fellow prospect Jorge Alfaro, Williams is a dynamic player with an exaggerated strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Last season, Williams played 125 games at Triple A and hit .258 with a .287 on-base percentage. He walked 19 times and struck out 136. It was abundantly clear that needed to change.
Williams didn't transform into Joey Votto but he has been taking more pitches lately. He's walked eight times in his last 13 games after walking eight times in his first 65 games this season.
Earlier in June, Phillies GM Matt Klentak said Williams wasn't far away from the majors and was putting the finishing touches on some things at Triple A. He was clearly referring to Williams' familiarity and knowledge of the strike zone.
This season, Williams has hit .280 with a .328 OBP. Those are respectable enough numbers for a corner outfielder, so long as he can play defense and hit for power.
Some added pop
Williams had a very slow start last season, especially in the power department. Adjusting to cold-weather games in the Lehigh Valley in April was not easy for a Texas kid.
In 527 plate appearances with the IronPigs last season, Williams had 33 doubles, six triples and 13 home runs.
In 306 plate appearances this season, he has 16 doubles, two triples and 15 home runs. Those 15 homers are two shy of his professional high.
After last season, the Phillies couldn't have been completely confident Williams would develop into an above-average major-league outfielder. Guys who hit .260 with a .290 OBP are not super valuable even if they hit 20 to 25 home runs, especially at offensive positions like left and right field. Heck, Freddy Galvis met those numbers last season while playing Gold Glove defense and he's still a polarizing player.
Nor is an outfielder all that valuable if he lacks power and hits .280 with a .330 OBP.
But the fact that Williams has improved in all of these phases — hitting more for average, taking more walks, leaving the yard more frequently — has made the Phillies comfortable with this promotion at this time.
Improvement vs. lefties
Williams has held his own against same-handed pitching this season, hitting .250/.294/.375 vs. lefties with three of his 15 home runs.
No, those aren't eye-popping numbers, but his .669 OPS vs. lefties is 98 points higher than it was last season.
Williams was bothered last summer by opposing managers' belief that he could be retired simply by bringing in a lefty.
"I've been seeing lefties a lot better lately," Williams said then. "A lot of them kind of do the same thing to me and that helps. I just want to master, really figure out what I'm trying to do and what they're trying to do to me. I didn't like when [managers] thought I couldn't hit a lefty, and they would call a guy in from the bullpen just to pitch to me. It bothered me, I didn't like that, them thinking it could just take a lefty to get me out. I worked on it, worked on it, and I got better at it, being more patient.
"Breaking balls away, sometimes they try to come in, but usually if they throw me a breaking ball that's a strike, it's a good pitch to hit. There's a couple times you can tip your hat to them for hitting a certain spot, but really, when lefties throw me a breaking ball for a strike, it's a good pitch to hit. Just staying patient and the one that's an inch off, two inches off, just bite your lip and take."
Look for the Phils to get Williams work at multiple outfield spots while he's up. At Triple A this season, he started 37 games in right field, 16 in left field and 10 in center.