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5’6″ Jett Williams is The Shortest First-Round Draft Pick in MLB History

He woke up at 5 AM every morning since 7th grade and refused to sign his own name on homework assignments.

The story of Jett Williams, the shortest first round draft pick in MLB history.
Credit-New York Mets/MLB/Joker Mag

You don’t have to be tall to play baseball.

Heck, just dial it back to 1951 when the St. Louis Browns sent 3’7”, 60-pound (yes, you read that right) Eddie Gaedel to the plate. But that was mainly because Browns’ owner Bill Veeck was a fan of publicity stunts. 

There have been many legitimate players (apologies to the Gaedel family) who spent significant time and made an impact on the history of Major League Baseball that may have been on the minimum height bubble of getting on their local roller coaster.

From 5’4” Hall of Fame, two-time All-Star “Wee” Willie Keeler to three-time World Series champion George “Snuffy” Stirweiss to today’s modern-day diminutive hero, two-time champ, MVP, and future Hall of Fame second baseman, 5’6” Jose Altuve, there is no such thing as being vertically challenged when it comes to baseball.

Despite showing that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog, most MLB teams have shied away from using an early-round draft pick on smaller players.

During the 2022 Amateur Draft, the New York Mets changed the narrative when they selected 5’6”, 175-pound shortstop Jett Williams in the first round with the 14th overall pick.

According to a search of The Baseball Cube’s records, Jett is the shortest first-round pick since the inaugural MLB Draft in 1965.

From an early age, some thought Williams might have a future in baseball.

“My dad was like, ‘I think Jett would sound good over the loudspeaker playing baseball.’”

But when he was in middle school, Jett understood the obstacles he faced.

At 5'6", Jett Williams is the shortest player ever selected in the first round of the MLB Draft.

“Knowing that I was a smaller-framed guy, my mindset was that I always had to outwork everybody. I had to outwork people because when I was little, people overlooked me because of my size.”

Waking up at 5 AM as a seventh grader, Williams would train with a strength and conditioning coach for two hours before school, and then spend more time after school on his hitting and fielding.

“I just knew if I wanted to be the best, I had to outwork everybody. I just knew that waking up at 5 AM was not something that most seventh graders were going to do.”

In the classroom, Jett was always thinking about baseball.

Instead of writing his own name on homework assignments, he wrote “Jacoby E.” – a homage to his childhood idol, All-Star outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

“My first number was 46, like him,” Jett said.

“Everybody was like, ‘Why are you number 46?’ and I was like, ‘That’s my favorite player.'”

As a star high school player for the Rockwall-Heath Hawks, Williams made the varsity team as a freshman.

Having gone through the MLB Draft process in 1988 as a member of the Kansas City Royals, Hawks coach Greg Harvey knew he had a special player on his hands.

“God gifted him everything except for the size. And maybe he made him just perfect because he’s always had to outwork people because of his size.”

Even next to his high school teammates, Jett looked small. But he let his play do the talking.

After hitting .411 with seven homers and two dozen stolen bases in his senior year, Williams was set to attend Mississippi State University.

While the ranking sites and gurus had him ranked anywhere from the top five to the top twenty, the one thing that they all agreed on is that Williams was one of the best young players in the nation.

And when the bigs come calling, you don’t turn them away.

Especially when there is a $3.9 million signing bonus included.

So what exactly does Williams possess that had the Bulldogs and has the Mets so excited about adding the Dallas native to their roster?

Offensively Williams showed a knack for consistently swinging at good pitches and finding the barrel with impressive bat speed for a player his size.

Add in his speed on the bases and Williams could bring in an extra couple of runs per game.

While his defensive skills could be defined as raw, his athleticism helped to cover any glaring mistakes, ones that could change as he gained experience against better talent. 

Making his debut in the Florida Complex League a month after being drafted, Williams suited up for ten games for the Mets’ rookie squad, batting .250 with 8 hits, 7 runs, 6 RBI, a home run, and six stolen bases. 

For the 2023 season, Williams made it through the gauntlet of Single-A, High-A, and Double-A ball with the Mets system.

Starting with the St. Lucie Mets, Williams appeared in 79 games, hitting a split of .249/.422/.410 in 261 at-bats. His stat line included a respectable 12 doubles, 6 triples, half a dozen homers, and 35 RBI with 69 walks and only 76 strikeouts. 

“I’ve always had a pretty good eye at the plate,” Williams told The Mets Pod.

“For me, it’s like I go up there and I’m the leadoff guy, I get up and I try to get on. If it’s not my pitch I’ll spit on it and wait for my pitch to come.”

On the base paths, Jett picked up 32 stolen bases in 38 attempts. It was obvious that he was ready for the next challenge.

Joining the Brooklyn Cyclones of the South Atlantic League, Jett continued to impress.

In the month he was with the team, he appeared in 36 games and finished with 9 doubles, 7 home runs, 18 RBI, and 12 stolen bases. 

A new month welcomed a new challenge on a new team as Williams earned a promotion to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies (who said creativity was dead?!).

While it was just a six-game regular season audition, in the Eastern League, Williams did see his numbers drop, hitting .227/.308/.273 with five hits, two RBI, and a stolen base.

The pitching at the AA level was also next level as Williams struck out ten times in 26 plate appearances. However, Williams’ home run blast during the Rumble Ponies Eastern League playoff game against the Somerset Patriots likely quieted any doubters.

A quote from New York Mets prospect Jett Williams: "Knowing that I was a smaller-framed guy, my mindset was that I always had to outwork everybody."

Drafted as a shortstop, some questioned his ability to play there full time should he reach the big leagues. But for the 2023 season, except for 21 games starting in center field, that is where Williams found himself.

Questions about his arm strength, footwork, and glovework led those who questioned to feel he was better in the outfield or possibly second base.

“I don’t really care,” Williams noted when asked about his preferred position during Spring Training.

“Just whatever gets me to the big leagues the fastest. And I think that wherever they put me, I’ll play. If they want to put me at third, short, second, center, left. I’ll play anything as long as I’m in the big leagues the fastest.”

Williams, now 20 years old, got called up to the “bigs” in February 2024, playing five games with the Mets’ big league camp in Spring Training.

Although it was a small sample size with just seven plate appearances, Williams posted a .333/.429/.333 slash line with two hits, an RBI, and a stolen base. However, at the end of the spring, he was reassigned back to the Rumble Ponies.

Though it’s Williams’ goal to make the main roster as quickly as possible, finding a starting position would be a challenge. He probably isn’t overtaking Francisco Lindor at short – who was impressed by his potential future replacement during the spring.

“He looks good,” Lindor said. “I’ve heard nothing but good things.”

As the Mets’ top prospect heading into the 2024 season and 45th overall in MLB, there’s a good chance that Williams will hear his name called up to the big league roster at some point.

While the Mets front office remains cautious – focusing on patience and development of their young stars – the excitement to see what Williams can bring to the main roster is evident.

Looking towards the not-so-distant future, his arrival in the majors is not a question of “if” but rather “when”.

Taking into account the spirit of New York, Jett Williams’ continues to prove that grit and determination outweigh height any day.

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Written By

Life-long sports fan and avid basketball junkie in every sense of the word. The same passion I have for the Lakers translates to my extreme dislike for the Duke Blue Devils. As much as I cheer for the favorite and the dynasty, I appreciate and applaud the underdog and the grind whether you are a weekend warrior or a professional, both on and off the field.

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