Luke Williams has spent less than three weeks at triple A, yet he’s already played six positions. He’s done everything this season for the IronPigs except pitch, catch, and play first base. But if they need him in any of those spots, Williams is likely up for it.
The Phillies drafted Williams in 2015 in the third round and almost immediately turned him into a super-utility player, recognizing that he was athletic enough to play nearly everywhere. Over six minor-league seasons, Williams has done just that.
“I kind of grew up doing that, playing different positions in travel ball and Little League and high school,” Williams said before last season. “I played center my sophomore year, catcher my junior year, and shortstop my senior year. I think it’s been working out pretty well so far.”
Williams is hitting .352 this season through 71 triple-A at-bats with a .904 OPS. It’s the most offensive success the 24-year-old has had since leaving high school.
Williams left the team this week to join Team USA for their training camp in Vero Beach, Fla., ahead of the qualifying tournament for this summer’s Olympic Games. And before he arrived there he received a phone call from Joe Girardi.
“He was really excited about it and I’m happy for him,” said Girardi, who was supposed to manage Team USA before the Phillies hired him. “He’s pumped.”
Williams made a strong impression on Girardi during the last two spring trainings and played himself this month onto the major-league radar. If he keeps hitting the way he did this month in Lehigh Valley, Williams could be talking to Girardi again.
The Phillies, Girardi said, can still call Williams to the majors if they need him while he’s away with Team USA. Major League Baseball remains the top priority. The Phillies would need to add Williams to their 40-man roster, but they’ll have no trouble clearing a spot if he maintains that production.
“He’s had a really good year,” Girardi said.
The IronPigs started Williams nine times this season at second base, three times at short and third, twice in left field, once in center, and played him an inning in right field. He packs four gloves on minor-league road trips and has started at least 10 games as a pro at every position except catcher and pitcher.
Williams, a right-handed hitter, could carve a role as a versatile bench player. The Phillies sold him on becoming a utility player by telling him about Ben Zobrist, who spent 14 years in the big leagues playing wherever he was needed.
Six years later, Williams has bought into his role and the Phillies would be thrilled if he became their Zobrist.
“It’s fun,” Williams said. “My dad raised me on hard work and I think that’s been a big part of my baseball career so far. ... I walk into the clubhouse everyday and see what position I’m playing. It keeps it exciting. It gives me more of a motive to get to the field like, ‘Oh, what position am I going to get to play today?’ ”
Realmuto and Gregorius progressing
J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius remain on the injured list but are making progress, Girardi said. Realmuto could return as early as this weekend from his bruised hand. Girardi said he has thrown, hit, and caught without pain. Gregorius seems to be behind Realmuto, but the swelling in the shortstop’s right elbow has gone down.
“I joked with him today that I could see his elbow bone,” Girardi said. “He takes ground balls but he doesn’t throw yet and he’s not hitting yet.”
Adam Haseley will play Friday and Saturday with low-A Clearwater as he returns from the restricted list. ... Spencer Howard will start Thursday’s series finale against Marlins right-hander Pablo Lopez.