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The Road to The Show™: Rays’ Williams

No. 20 overall prospect brings exciting set of tools to key position
Tampa Bay Rays shortstop prospect Carson Williams was named a Gold Glove winner in 2022. (Anna Rouch/Bowling Green Hot Rods)
March 12, 2024

Each week, profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at second-ranked Rays prospect Carson Williams. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here. Carson Williams is set to take on the upper

Each week, profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at second-ranked Rays prospect Carson Williams. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here.

Carson Williams is set to take on the upper levels of the Minors as he enters his third full professional season.

The 20-year-old has played just 10 games above the High-A level, but the Rays have considerably less depth at the shortstop position than when Williams was drafted in 2021.

As a Draft prospect, Williams’ hit tool was graded better than his power. But those grades have swapped after his three seasons in the Minors.

MLB Pipeline’s No. 20 overall prospect has 42 homers and 47 doubles while producing a .482 slugging percentage in 239 career games so far. While he’s hitting the ball with authority, he’s also struck out in more than 31 percent of his plate appearances.

Although the strikeout figures are suboptimal and certainly his biggest need for improvement, Williams is already an effective hitter with a well-rounded skill set.

He is one of only five players in the Minors to record at least 19 homers, 20 stolen bases and 20 doubles in each of the past two seasons. Williams is also the only Gold Glover among that group, which includes No. 76 overall prospect Ceddanne Rafaela, a 70-grade defender in his own right.

The book on Williams’ defensive talent and arm strength has remained consistent since his amateur days. He posted a better fielding percentage (.982) at shortstop last year than when he earned the Gold Glove at the position in 2022.

Williams, who threw a mid-90s fastball and was thought by some scouts to be better suited for a career as a pitcher, also has the highest-graded arm strength (65) among MLB Pipeline’s Top 10 shortstop prospects.

“Some of our staff have said that he’s got the best all-around tools in this organization,” Rays director of Minor League operations George Pappas told in December. “He’s shown some real maturation … but you still take all those intangibles.”

The San Diego native earned some national acclaim as a two-way player at Torrey Pines High School in California. He cemented his status as an early-round talent after following up a brilliant fall with an even better spring during his senior year.

Williams claimed MVP honors at the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association World Championship in October, then batted .495 with 11 homers, 34 stolen bases and a .979 slugging percentage in his final high-school season.

MLB Pipeline ranked the 6-foot-1, 180-pound shortstop as the No. 41 prospect in the 2021 Draft class. The Rays selected Williams with the No. 28 overall pick, and he signed a week later for a below-slot bonus of $2,347,500, joining a system that already featured a number of high-profile shortstop prospects.

After signing, Williams reported to the Florida Complex League. He finished his season with an 11-game stint on the Rookie-level circuit, recording a .282/.404/.436 slash line with four doubles and eight RBIs. He also struck out 13 times in 39 plate appearances.

Williams spent all of his first full season in 2022 with Single-A Charleston, helping the River Dogs to a Carolina League championship during his Gold Glove year. He hit 19 homers and stole 28 bases while batting .252 with an .818 OPS. Williams also crushed solo shots in both games of Charleston’s championship series sweep of Lynchburg.

But he also had a 32.1 percent strikeout rate and whiffed 168 times in the regular season -- the most in the system -- and was set down on strikes nine times in 18 plate appearances in the playoffs.

Williams maintained an identical strikeout rate but set personal bests with 23 homers, 81 RBIs and 59 walks across three levels in 2023. He played 105 games with High-A Bowling Green, made a four-game cameo with Triple-A Durham in August and finished the season with Double-A Montgomery.

He hit all of his long balls with Bowling Green and had just one hit in 13 at-bats with Durham. He was excellent in the final regular-season series for Montgomery, collecting nine hits in 21 at-bats (.429), but he struck out in six of his eight at-bats during the Biscuits playoff series against Pensacola.

Williams finished the 2023 season with Peoria in the Arizona Fall League. He drove in six runs but did not homer in 19 games, and his production was likely impacted by his near-37 percent strikeout rate.

“My biggest thing -- there’s no secret -- is the strikeouts,” he told at the start of the AFL season in October. “So I went into the offseason and knew I had to work on it as much as I possibly could. It's tough during the offseason without real arms, but you do what you can. Then I came out this year with goals in mind in that aspect, and I accomplished a bunch of them.”

Although he’s not likely to break through to the Majors this season, the Rays have not been shy about promoting a younger infielder for a late-season push, like they did with No. 4 overall prospect Junior Caminero last year. With his impact power and defensive ability, Williams can put himself in that position sometime this season -- especially if he manages to limit his strikeout rate.

Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for