Get to know Kevin Cash's son's favorite prospect

March 15th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Adam Berry's Rays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- This was ’ first Major League Spring Training camp with the Rays, but manager Kevin Cash had already heard a lot about him.

He’s heard about Williams’ work ethic, power, speed and shortstop defense from Tampa Bay’s player development staff, sure. He’s also fielded a lot of questions about Williams from his 11-year-old son, J.D.

“J.D. asks me about Carson Williams, maybe as much as he does Randy [Arozarena],” Cash said earlier this spring, laughing. “J.D. is pretty good at seeking out talent.”

Indeed, he seems to have picked a good one in Williams -- the 20-year-old ranked by MLB Pipeline as the game’s No. 20 overall prospect. Williams was reassigned to Minor League camp on Monday, as he’s likely to begin the season in Double-A Montgomery, but Cash said the young shortstop “couldn’t have made a better impression” during his time in camp.

On Saturday afternoon, Williams will participate in the Rays’ Spring Breakout game against the Twins at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Before he was sent out, we caught up with Williams to talk about his first big league camp, his development, surfing and more. Here are a few exchanges from that conversation. How would you describe your first Major League Spring Training so far?

Williams: It's been awesome. Just trying to take it in as much as I can. Being around these guys is really special, because you kind of get to see how they operate and how they get their work in and how they get ready for these games and for a season as well. Super important. Do you do that by watching and learning, talking to guys or a little bit of both?

Williams: Everybody’s so easygoing around here, the conversations are super easy. I couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming group. Because like, I’m the new guy. I’m nervous to come in, and these big leaguers, they’re just so impressive in so many aspects. You start to get nervous, you don’t want to talk to anybody, but everybody’s been so cool and so easygoing. Can you run me through your offseason and the work you did to get ready for the season?

Williams: I had an interesting offseason, very different from my last two. I went to the Fall League, and obviously that cuts your offseason by a lot. I talked with all our staff, and I didn’t touch a bat or a baseball during my time at home. I spent it with my family and friends and just relaxed. Then I came out for mini-camp [in Port Charlotte] in early January; it actually worked out really well, because that’s when I would have started my progression anyway. It was awesome. I actually was only supposed to go for two weeks and realized that I would be better off just staying here [through Spring Training, aside from eight to nine days at home] because I’m going to get the best work in. So did you make time for anything fun in the offseason during that time where you were at home?

Williams: A lot of surfing. That’s what I do back at home. I tried to get to the beach every day, just because I live so close. I’m about two or three minutes away. Family, friends, surfing, fishing, hunting, all that good stuff. How long have you been surfing?

Williams: I was probably surfing before I was playing baseball. Since diapers, I’ve been in the ocean. I’ve heard that you were more of a surfer, not necessarily a baseball rat type growing up. When did you get into the game?

Williams: My dad made sure that I played every single sport as a kid, just because it’s good for you. Growing up, it creates skills that you can’t find if you’re just doing one. I was outside most of the time, so I’d never been one to watch baseball. I’m getting into it. I love watching these Spring Training games, and I’ll try to watch it a little bit if I see it on TV. But I grew up hunting, fishing, snowboarding, surfing, playing sports every single day. I was just outside a bunch. What sort of goals do you set for yourself at the start of the season?

Williams: A lot of my offseason work was a lot to do with my mentality. Right now, I don’t have any goals that are success-oriented. It’s a lot about getting my timing and feeling good in the box and making sure I’m relaxed out there. Since this is a prospect Q&A, I’ve got to ask about the Rays’ No. 1 guy: Junior Caminero. What’s it been like playing with him?

Williams: That’s mi hermano! This kid is unbelievable, and I love it. I ask him about hitting, and he asks me questions about defense sometimes. There’s this back-and-forth. He’s so special. I love watching that kid play. … He knows the game so well and is so smart about the way he goes about things. He’s got talent that’s, like, out of this world. He’s super special and is going to do some really cool things.