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Potanko: Alika Williams Just What the Defense Doctor Ordered



Alika Williams-Pittsburgh Pirates

Getting drafted in the first round comes with a lot of pressure.

We’ve seen plenty of first-rounders fizzle out. Regardless, Alika Williams has been impressive for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the field, and this may be the glove they’ve needed at shortstop.

The New York Yankees drafted Williams in 2017 during the 32nd round, but Williams elected to go to Arizona State, which paid off for the young man.

In 2020, the Tampa Bay Rays drafted Williams in the first round, and he signed a $1.85 million signing bonus. Williams quickly rose through the Rays’ system, making it to their Triple-A team in 2021.

After ’21, Williams continued to shift between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A until the Pirates acquired him on June 2 for RHP Robert Stephenson.

For a little over a month, Williams dominated in Triple-A for the Pirates, batting .305/.384/.531 with an OPS of .915 and 20 runs driven in.

On July 25, the Pirates felt like it was time to give Williams his major league call-up, and in his four games so far, Williams has been impressive with his glove work.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Williams on the last month and change. “Even the last couple months, being with Tampa Bay and getting traded over, it’s been unbelievable. Everything is happening so fast. I’m just trying to slow it down and take it all in. It’s been unbelievable.”

Saturday night, Williams and Liover Peguero connected for a beautifully turned double play, which gave Williams his fourth double play in his first four games.

Those four double plays made Williams the fourth Pirates player to turn at least four double plays at shortstop within their first four games in the last 50 years.

One of those players that met the criteria is defensive wizard Jack Wilson. Wilson achieved this feat on April 3, 2001.

We asked Williams what it was like to be mentioned in the same breath as Jack Wilson for a defensive feat.

“It’s an absolute honor,” said Williams. “My whole career, I’ve taken pride in my defense. I’ve been known to be a defense-first guy. I’m glad I’m able to contribute in that sense.”

It was a night of firsts for Williams on Saturday. Williams achieved his first major league hit and RBI in a singular at-bat.

“You obviously want to get the first one off your back,” said Williams. “It just felt really good. He threw me a curveball early; I think it was the pitch before, and I looked kind of bad on it. I had this feeling he was going to throw it again because I didn’t look too great on it. Sure enough, he threw it in the same spot, and I made an adjustment to just get enough of it to get through the infield. It felt amazing; I had a big smile going to first base. You can’t put it into words.”

Williams added that the ball would go on his parents’ shelf. His parents have plenty of baseball memorabilia from his career thus far.

For the most part, Williams glove has been his bread and butter. It’s clear the 24-year-old takes a lot of pride in his defensive work.

“I just love playing defense,” said Williams. “I love picking it at short and second base. I’ve never played third base, but I would love to. Wherever I am on the field, I just love being out there and playing defense and saving runs. That’s how it’s been since high school.”

It’s still way too early to discuss Williams becoming a mainstay on the Pirates roster. It does seem like he’s on the right path to further his development and career.

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