PHILADELPHIA -- Nick Williams got Phillies fans salivating last January, when he posted on Instagram a photo of himself and Jacob Arrieta following a workout in Texas.Arrieta was a free agent at the time and the Phillies needed a starting pitcher. Williams and Arrieta shared Scott Boras as an agent.Williams
PHILADELPHIA -- Nick Williams got Phillies fans salivating last January, when he posted on Instagram a photo of himself and Jacob Arrieta following a workout in Texas.
Arrieta was a free agent at the time and the Phillies needed a starting pitcher. Williams and Arrieta shared Scott Boras as an agent.
Williams made his pitch to Arrieta, who later signed a three-year, $75 million contract. Williams, who worked Monday afternoon with kids from the Phillies' MLB Urban Youth Academy at the Ryan Howard Training Center, said this time, unlike teammate Rhys Hoskins, he has not talked to another big-time Boras client: Bryce Harper. The Phillies are pursuing both Harper and Manny Machado in a potentially record-breaking free-agent sweepstakes. A source reiterated last week that the Phillies will sign only one.
"We don't know what's going to happen," Williams said. "I don't even think Jake knows."
But Williams, like many Phillies fans, would love one of them.
"I mean, if it happens, it happens," he said. "If it doesn't, it doesn't. But those two are really freaking great players. Just one of them would be a big deal, you know?"
Williams could be most impacted if the Phillies sign Harper. The Phillies would have a glut of outfielders at that point with Harper, Williams, Andrew McCutchen, Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn, Aaron Altherr and Dylan Cozens on the 40-man roster. The Phillies could try to trade Williams or Herrera to help them find pitching help.
"I don't think about that," Williams said. "I can't control that. I'm just working to get stronger and better. But I've played against both Bryce and Manny. They're both really great. It would be great, especially for the city."
Williams hit .256 with 17 home runs, 50 RBIs and a .749 OPS in 448 plate appearances last season. He had a .782 OPS from May 1 through the end of the season.
Most impressively, Williams improved his discipline at the plate. He reduced his strikeout rate from 28.3 percent his rookie season to 24.8 percent. He increased his walk rate from 5.8 percent to 7.1 percent. He swung at fewer pitches outside the strike zone. He swung at fewer first pitches. He made more contact.
He finished in the 82nd percentile in expected batting average (.273) and in the 73rd percentile in expected weighted on-base average (.342).
He believes he will be better in 2019.
"I've changed my stance," he said. "Not my swing -- just the stance. I talked to Males [hitting coach John Mallee] and they've said I should use my leverage. I'm not going to be as low and open anymore. I'm going to be more squared up."
And more upright.
"So far it's felt really good. I feel like my hands are even faster," Williams said. "I've also been working on better running techniques, so fewer stumbles. Some people don't notice, but I lose a lot of speed on that end."
If the Phillies don't sign Harper, they will need Williams to be the best version of himself in 2019. He is working on it.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.