Originally written on Mike Silva's New York Baseball Digest  |  Last updated 11/17/14

You almost have to be my age – nearly 48 years since my Bar Mitzvah – to remember a Yankees outfielder at the end of career named Walt “No Neck” Williams.

Williams, who played 10 years in the majors – mostly with the Chicago White Sox – and later coached in the majors and managed in the minors, including the Charleston RiverDogs in 1994, was known as “No Neck’’ for his 5-foot-6, muscular build.

Those 1994 RiverDogs were a Texas affiliate and finished 50-89, but, through Williams, have a connection to the Yankees’ talent-laden 2012 Charleston club, which has started 13-3 in the South Atlantic League.

Yankees blue-chip outfield prospect Mason Williams, who is hitting .318 (21-for-66) with eight stolen bases, is distantly related to “No Neck,’’ who was his grandfather’s brother.  He looks nothing like “No Neck,’’ and 6-0, 155, but can he ever play.

Williams, named as the New York-Penn League’s top prospect, is about to pass the oft-injured Slade Heathcott in the pecking order.  Coming off a season in which he was named the top prospect in the New York-Penn League after batting .395 (94-for-269) with 31 RBIs and 28 steals in 68 games, he is making his mark in his first full-season league.

Just 21, with the tenacity of “No Neck’’ and the speed of his dad, Derwin, a former New England Patriots wide receiver, Williams is working on improving his route-running and swing. A mid-season promotion to Class-A Advanced Tampa is not out of the question.

Williams is part of a four-pronged attack that is laying waste to the Sally League by prospects who hope to arrive in the majors around late 2014 or 2015. Outfielder Tyler Austin is hitting a lusty .393 (22-for-56) with a league-leading four homers and a team-leading 12 RBIs.  Catcher Gary Sanchez chips in with a .356 mark (21-for-59) and six RBIs.  Dante Bichette Jr., last year’s supplemental first-round pick, is clicking at .294 (15-for-51).

Give credit to scout Jeff Deardorff, who signed both Williams and Bichette.

On the pitching side, the somewhat forgotten hurler in the Seattle trade for Michael Pinieda that sent Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi West, righty Jose Campos, is 3-0, 1.23 in four starts with a strikeout/walk ratio of 23-5. Campos’ fastball, which sits at 92-95 mph, has been clocked at 98.

Add the potential of shortstop Cito Culver and righty Bryan Mitchell to this aggregation, which has won eight straight heading into play Tuesday, and no wonder manager Carlos Mendoza says, “This is a fun team to manage.’’

Keep an eye on all these Charleston players – Austin was a 13th-round pick from Conyers, Ga., signed by scout Darryl Monroe for $130,000 in 2010. They will be moving up the ladder quickly.


TAMPA YANKEES (Class-A Advanced) – The T-Yanks enter Tuesday’s play with a 9-8 mark. Offensively, infielder-outfielder Rob Segedin is batting  .308 (20-for-65).  On the mound, lefty Nik Turley is 2-0, 1.93 with a strikeout-walk ratio of 27-9.  Turley was a 50th-round selection in 2008 who is recovering from a broken bone in his pitching hand sustained last season when he was hit by a line drive in his second 2011 Tampa start.

TRENTON THUNDER (Class AA) – The Thunder are 8-8 heading into Tuesday night’s game at home with Erie, and will have Andy Pettitte pitching Wednesday evening. Third baseman Ronnier Mustelier, a Cuban defector, is hitting .339 *21-for-62). On the mound, righty Craig Heyer is 1-1, 2.16 in three starts (he also made a start from Triple-A Empire State), with a strikeout-walk ratio of 12-3.

EMPIRE STATE YANKEES (Class AAA) – The vagabond Yankees are 8-8, having won four straight on their journey without a home. Outfielder Dewayne Wise is looking for attention with a .439 (18-for-41) average. Infielder-outfielder Steve Pearce, another former big-leaguer, is hitting .361 (22-for-61).  Sinker-slider righty D.J. Mitchell,  at 2-0, 2.12 in three starts, with a 15-5 strikeout/walk ratio, has been the most consistent pitcher


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