As is tradition around these parts after the season is over, we’re taking a look at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals this season. That’ll range from someone that didn’t record an out to someone that played almost every inning. Treat it like they are stopping by the manager’s office (umm, also imagine this was before the managerial change) on their way home for the winter for a performance review. Stats listed are ones generated during their time with the Cards and the grade is based not only on their performance but on the expectations for them going into the season. As he has the past few years, the legend that is cardinalsgifs has provided our excellent header image!
Player: Justin Williams
Season stats: 51 G, 137 PA, 10 R, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 1 CS, 17 BB, 46 K, .160/.270/.261, 50 OPS+, -0.6 bWAR, -0.8 fWAR
Statcast: .229 xwOBA, 11.0 barrel %, 92.1 exit velocity, 52.1 hard hit %, 33.6 K %, 12.4 BB %
Best Statcast category: Max Exit Velocity (94th percentile)
Worst Statcast category: Sprint Speed (50th percentile)
Hero/Goat: Hero 1, Goat 4
Positives: Even after being granted the rare fourth option, started the season with the big league club….got almost half his hits in a 10 game span from April 11 to April 21, where he hit .321/.424/.536….was three for nine with a home run and three RBI as a pinch-hitter….hit .316 on the first pitch….one of his four home runs came with two outs and runners in scoring position….had a .718 OPS off of relievers….had a .719 OPS in night games….hit .274 with an .866 OPS in 23 games for Memphis.
Negatives: Went on the injured list at the beginning of June, went to Memphis when well, and never returned….went 0-10 to start the season….hit .095 in his last eight games before the injury….had an OPS of .449 in 19 plate appearances against lefties….had a .423 OPS at Busch Stadium….slashed .088/.200/.140 as a right fielder, the position he had the most plate appearances as….went 1-17 while batting sixth….posted a .433 OPS if he swung at the first pitch….he was 1 for 41 (.024) if the pitcher was ahead….hit under .120 in high and medium leverage situations….batted .100 against starting pitchers….had a .333 OPS against the Cubs.
Overview: I argued last year that if Justin Williams couldn’t get a real shot in 2020, with roster depleted by COVID, he either wasn’t likely to get one in this organization or the club wasn’t that high on him. The club kept him around and gave him a decent shot this year, but Williams just couldn’t do anything with it. Honestly, until preparing this post, I had forgotten he had gotten as much run as he did, though he was helped by Harrison Bader being out a large part of the time he was active. Williams struck out a lot and struggled in significant ways at the plate. It’s probably not a surprise that when the Cardinals could stop using Williams and Lane Thomas and start using Bader, Tyler O’Neill, and Dylan Carlson all the time that the results improved dramatically.
Outlook: As we noted with Roel Ramirez, two-thirds of the Tommy Pham trade hits the road as Williams elected minor league free agency at the end of the year. His relative success in Memphis (though that was hampered by injuries as well) and the fact that he won’t be 27 until mid-season probably means someone takes a flyer on him, most likely with a minor league deal but perhaps a team like Pittsburgh might sign him to see what he could do in the bigs.