The San Francisco Giants announced their minor league rosters this weekend, and there was perhaps no surprise bigger than the assignment of outfield prospect Mac Williamson to Class A San Jose. The 23-year-old Williamson, who is considered by many to be the Giants’ top position player prospect, thrived last year at San Jose, and it was widely assumed that he would be promoted to the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels to start the season.
In his first full professional season last year, Williamson began on a good note by impressing in several major-league camp cameos, and the Giants considered sending him straight to Double-A before ultimately deciding to have him spend 2013 in A-Ball. While he was inconsistent in the early going, Williamson really went on a tear after the All-Star break, hitting .331 with a .986 OPS. His overall numbers for the year ended up being pretty impressive, as he put together a .292 average with 25 homers, 89 RBI, and a .879 OPS.
With that performance, the lack of outfield depth in Richmond, and the invitation that Williamson received to big-league spring training this year, it seemed to be a certainty that he would start the year in Double-A. But while Williamson’s return to San Jose will be surprising to many, it appears that the Giants had an ulterior motive for the decision that went beyond performance.
Williamson reportedly suffered an injury this spring that is severe enough to keep him from playing in the field, but mild enough that it allows him to hit. He has been serving as the designated hitter for the High-A team in spring training, and he was listed as a designated hitter on San Jose’s roster. Because of this, it can be inferred that the Giants wanted to get Williamson the most possible at-bats by allowing him to DH daily in the California League, as opposed to the Double-A Eastern League, where there is no DH in play when both teams are affiliates of National League clubs. It also can’t hurt to have the rehabilitating Williamson playing in the warm weather of San Jose, as opposed to Richmond, where it’s often dreary and cold for the first month of the season.
As long as he performs decently in San Jose, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Williamson moved up to Richmond whenever he is healthy enough to field. Despite the injury, there is little reason to worry about Williamson, and he should still be one of the faster-rising prospects in the Giants system.