Phillies prospect Nick Williams benched again for lack of hustle

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Earlier this month, Phillies outfield prospect Nick Williams was benched by Triple-A Lehigh Valley manager Dave Brundage because he didn’t run out a fly ball that was eventually dropped. It happened again.

On Monday night, Williams grounded out in the bottom of the eighth inning, making him 0-for-4 on the night. As Greg Joyce of LehighValleyLive.com recounts, Williams was slow to run out of the batter’s box and slow to return to the dugout, so Brundage pulled Williams in favor of Carlos Alonso.

Williams was “extremely” surprised that he was benched, and said that he wasn’t given an explanation by Brundage. “I didn’t say anything, I just took my seat. I don’t know. I have no explanation,” the outfielder said.

Williams, considered the Phillies’ third-best prospect, is hitting a productive .285/.329/.460 with seven home runs and 36 RBI in 287 plate appearances with Lehigh Valley. He is expected to make his major league debut at some point in the second half, though if he is perceived as failing to hustle, that could potentially delay his major league debut. Williams was part of the six-player return the Phillies received last year from the Rangers in the Cole Hamels trade.

For what it’s worth, Williams’ offense seems rather minor here. He was a few seconds late to the dugout compared to the average player. It was 75 degrees and the IronPigs haven’t had a day off since June 13. That includes a double-header on the 18th. They won’t get a day off until July 11. Williams was probably dragging a bit from a rough night, the humid weather, and the grind of the regular season schedule. Williams also tossed his helmet down the tunnel after returning to the dugout, likely frustrated from an 0-for-4 night when he felt like he was putting good swings on the ball.

Baseball traditionalists have for years jumped on stats people for not considering players as human beings, but rather as data points. Here, the traditionalists — who tend to be overwhelmingly in favor of teaching young players these kinds of lessons — never consider factors like players being worn down by the weather or the schedule. They expect them to be at 100 percent functionality day in, day out like robots. Players are allowed to be tired. They’re allowed to be frustrated.

If I’m Phillies GM Matt Klentak, I’m sending a message to Brundage that the life lessons he’s trying to teach Williams aren’t worth souring the kid’s motivation or his attitude, nor is it worth cutting into his playing time when he’s on the cusp of being a major leaguer.