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‘Natural hitter’: Meet the undrafted free-agent bat Giants want to turn into more

Courtesy Kevin Dorsey

Among the several teams to reach out to Carter Williams were the Blue Jays, Tigers, Red Sox and Yankees. But the Giants made it clear he was a priority, and an area scout helped sell Williams on a team with a proud history and one that is building for the future; plus, as Williams said, “I love out West and the life out there, and that was what did it for me.”

Amateur scouting Michael Holmes called him June 14 about 9:15 a.m. East Coast time, shortly after the clock allowed, and alerted him that he was the first undrafted free agent he was contacting to recruit. Williams was hooked, saying recently it was a dream he had been working toward since he was 4.

It was also a dream that had been denied 12 months earlier.

“You could see last year when he wasn’t drafted how much it hurt him, how down he was about that,” his North Carolina Central coach, Jim Koerner, said over the phone. “To get the opportunity now, it’s just a really good story for a really good person.”

The Giants picked up another flier in the 22-year-old left fielder, among the handful of new members of the organization so far who were victimized by the truncated draft. He had been overlooked in 2019 after a MEAC season in which he slashed .328/.394/.475 with five home runs. A strong showing in the New England Collegiate Baseball League elevated his status, and despite missing several games in his short senior season after a car accident — meaning he played in just nine games this year — Williams was able to turn pro, albeit without the signing bonus a top-five-round pick would have commanded.

He’s “just a natural hitter,” said Koerner, adding he’s the most natural hitter he’s coached since arriving at NC Central in 2012. “He’s got amazing feel for the barrel, understands the strike zone, has the opportunity to hit for some power. But also understands on-base percentage and how to work the count. If you look at his stats, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is very good, but he’s also got the ability to hit the extra-base hit as well.”

From Koerner’s mouth to the Giants’ ears. This San Francisco regime craves zone-disciplined hitters with good bat-to-ball skills, believing with that base, power can be manufactured. At NC Central, the lefty hitter walked 81 times while striking out 85, a speedy, 6-foot-3 outfielder who can handle the bat well.

Courtesy Kevin Dorsey

Koerner said that while Williams was on instant star — he slashed .356/.432/.463 as a freshman — he saw a maturation at the plate that the Giants will continue to develop. Over his first few years, his ability to hit the ball wherever it was pitched was both impressive and possibly hurtful; he had to learn which pitches he should home in on to drive.

Williams is plenty choosy, his lowest college OBP being .394 as a sophomore.

“We constantly work on [pitch selection] at practice and stuff, and he’s someone who’s picked up on that really easy. He’s just got a very good idea of his strengths and weaknesses,” Koerner said of the Brown Summit, N.C., native. “Two-strike adjustments is outstanding. Just did a really good job, and not only that, he’s a fast, athletic player. You’re looking at someone who’s 6-3, 210 maybe, but also runs a 6.6 and can do some things on the bases as well as defensively.”

Williams is lanky and probably has some filling out to do, though his legs have worked well in that frame, stealing 41 bags in college. He said he idolizes Milwaukee’s Lorenzo Cain, himself a lanky outfielder with plenty of speed and with enough pop in his bat.

Koerner liked the comparison. As the case with each undrafted free agent, the Giants are taking a chance on a player with tools and betting their system can maximize his abilities. The abilities at the moment don’t include a ton of power — he slugged 13 in college — but there’s projection there.

Especially for someone Koerner described as a hard worker and “one of the kindest people you’re going to meet.”

“It’s gonna come,” Koerner said. “The Giants are going to get a kid that’s going to be ready to hit for average and on-base percentage. I think over time he’s going to learn how to tap into that power. We’ll have some batting practices where we let him open up and see how far he can hit it. He’s got some pop in his bat — he’s not just a singles hitter.

“He hasn’t hit a ton of home runs here, but it’s more because of his approach and what type of hitter he has been. Depending on what the Giants want to do with him, he’s got a chance to develop some pop.”


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