Twins Remain Enamored Of Williams' Athleticism





MINNEAPOLIS—Mike Radcliff can remember another Twins prospect with JaDamion Williams' approach to hitting.

"Kirby Puckett just went up there and hit," the vice president of player personnel said. "J.D., he's a swinger, too. He doesn't necessarily have great at-bats yet—or have much of a plate presence—but he's got that same way of getting good results just by using that aggressive swing."

Williams also showed restraint by walking 25 times in 50 games for Rookie-level Elizabethton this season, giving him a .406 on-base percentage that ranked seventh in the Appalachian League. That he did so on sheer athleticism, by bashing 60 hits and finishing in the top 10 with a .324 average, was what excites the Twins.

"He's got a lot to learn at the plate, but he's a hard worker and is absorbing a lot fast," Radcliff said of the 20-year-old product of Tampa's Brooks-DeBartolo High. "He's got bat speed, and a lot of physicality in his hands and wrists. We project him as an offensive contributor down the road."

The Twins always felt that way, which is why they signed the switch-hitting Williams for $125,000—one of the largest bonuses out of the 10th round in 2010. "We had a lot of interest in getting him into the system," Radcliff said.

Now it's a matter of finding him a position. Son of former Angels and Dodgers outfielder Reggie Williams, J.D. played shortstop in high school, but the Twins tried him at second base in the Gulf Coast League last year before moving him to right field this season.

Williams was in the same lineup at Elizabethton as Appy League co-player of the year Eddie Rosario, and Dominican slugger Miguel Sano, widely considered the top prospect in Minnesota's system.

"He wasn't as high a profile guy, but his athletic tools are as good as anyone's," Radcliff said. "He's a good learner. With his bat speed, he's got a lot to be excited about."

TWIN KILLINGS

• The Twins claimed righthanded reliever Esmerling Vasquez on waivers from the Diamondbacks. The 27-year-old shuttled back and forth between Arizona and Triple-A Reno for the past three seasons, compiling a 4.66 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in the big leagues, but he'll be out of options in 2012.

• Outfielder Joe Benson agreed to play in the Venezuelan League for the first time this winter, with instructions to work on reducing his strikeouts. The 23-year-old batted .239/.270/.352 with 21 strikeouts and three walks in 71 at-bats following a September callup.