Among top winter league stars, Rays' Williams red hot in Australia

January 18th, 2016

Justin Williams is making a name for himself this offseason in the Australian Baseball League.

Selected by Arizona in the second round of the 2013 Draft out of Terrebonne (La.) High, Williams spent his first two pro seasons in the D-backs' system and hit a combined .351 in 125 games across three levels including Class A South Bend. After the 2014 season, however, Williams was traded to the Rays along with middle-infield prospect Andrew Velazquez in exchange for right-hander Jeremy Hellickson.

Ranked as Tampa Bay's No. 22 prospect, Williams continued to showcase his advanced hit tool with his new club in 2015. The left-handed-hitting outfielder spent a majority of his age-19 campaign at Class A Bowling Green of the Midwest League before moving up to the Class A Advanced Florida State League for the final month of the regular season. He ultimately batted .277/.298/.394 in 122 games between the two stops, also establishing career highs with seven home runs, 30 doubles and 48 RBIs.

Williams has stayed hot this winter in Australia playing for the Brisbane Bandits, as he ranks second in the league in OPS (.963), hits (61) and slugging (.567) and third in total bases (102). On top of that, with nine home runs in 46 games, Williams has already surpassed his home run total from the regular season.

Here's a look at some of the other top prospects currently making waves in the offseason winter leagues.


Riley Unroe, 2B, Rays -- Drafted in the second round of the 2013 Draft, Unroe enjoyed a solid full-season debut at Class A Bowling Green of the Midwest League in 2015, hitting .255/.333/.321 with 13 steals in 116 games. His numbers might have been even better if not for a poor second half in which he hit .217 with a .569 OPS across 57 games. However, the switch-hitter has gotten back on track this winter in the ABL, hitting .315/.397/.375 through 51 games for the Brisbane Bandits. The 20-year-old second baseman has been particularly hot over his last 19 contests, producing a robust .355/.437/.447 batting line with 27 hits an 18 runs scored in that span.

Dominican Republic

Christhian Adames, SS, Colorado Rockies -- Adames has long been revered for his strong defense at shortstop, but it wasn't until this past season that the Rockies' No. 19 prospect made significant strides at the plate as he hit .311/.362/.438 with a career-high 11 home runs in 116 games for Triple-A Albuquerque. After a seven-game stint in the Major Leagues in 2014, the 24-year-old infielder received a longer look last September and ultimately appeared in 26 games for Colorado. Though he's mostly scuffled this offseason while playing for Toros del Este, the switch-hitting Adames has found his stroke in time to hit .316 with two home runs and six RBIs in the postseason.

Teoscar Hernandez, OF, Astros -- Ranked as Houston's No. 15 prospect, Hernandez spent all of 2015 at Double-A Corpus Christi, where he continued to showcase an intriguing blend of power and speed, hitting 17 home runs and stealing 33 bases in 121 games in spite of a .217 average and 24.5 percent strikeout rate. After going unselected in December's Rule 5 Draft, the 23-year-old outfielder hit .275 during the regular season for Toros del Este and has continued to swing the bat well during the league's round-robin playoffs, posting a .278 average with two doubles and four RBIs over his last four contests.

Steven Moya, OF, Tigers -- After hitting 35 home runs and reaching the Major Leagues in 2014, Moya, the Tigers' No. 2 prospect, didn't take a step forward in '15, posting a .703 OPS with 20 home runs in 126 games for Triple-A Toledo and scuffling during his return to the big leagues. The 24-year-old outfielder has rebounded to have a nice offseason in the Dominican Republic, hitting .298 with four home runs and 27 RBIs in 35 games for Toros del Este. Moya has been even hotter during the league's postseason round-robin tournament, during which he's hitting .348 with 11 RBIs.

Puerto Rico

Dylan Cozens, OF, Phillies -- A second-round Draft pick in 2012, Cozens' prospect stock took a hit with an underwhelming 2014 full-season debut in the South Atlantic League. However, he got back on track last season in the Florida State League (.746 OPS in 96 games), ultimately finishing with a successful 11-game stint with Double-A Reading. The 6-foot-6, 235-pound outfielder is strengthening his case to re-enter the Phillies' Top 30 with a strong showing in the Puerto Rican Winter League, where he hit .275/.333/.407 over 26 regular-season contests for Indios de Mayaguez. In the league's round-robin postseason, Cozens is hitting .292 with a pair of doubles for Mayaguez, who currently holds a two-game lead over Cangrejeros de Santurce and Criollos de Caguas.