July 19, 2024

Nationals to call up top prospect James Wood on Monday: Reports

The Washington Nationals are expected to promote their No. 2 prospect James Wood, for his major-league debut on Monday, according to multiple reports. Wood, 21, recently ranked the No. 5 prospect in baseball by The Athletic’s Keith Law, is batting .346/.458/.578 with 10 home runs in 51 games for Triple-A Rochester. The outfielder is expected to play for Rochester over the weekend before joining the big-league team ahead of a series against the New York Mets.

Originally selected in the second round of the 2021 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres, Wood was part of the return the Nationals received in August 2022 for Juan Soto and Josh Bell. The 6-foot-7 Wood struggled after the trade but had a bounce-back season in 2023, hitting 26 home runs in 129 games split between High A and Double A. Wood has improved on that performance this season in Triple A, cutting his strikeout rate from 30 percent to 17 percent and raising his walk rate from 12 percent to 17 percent.

Law noted in his most recent MLB prospect ranking that Wood’s improved plate discipline had significantly raised his ceiling as a player. From that June 3 write-up:

“My main concern with Wood coming into this year was how he managed his huge strike zone, from fastballs up in the zone to sliders down in or out of it. It’s a challenge most hitters his height have to confront at some point, and few have done so successfully in MLB history. The Nats were aggressive with Wood, moving him up to Triple A this spring despite a high strikeout rate in Double A in the second half of 2023, and he’s responded with the biggest improvement of his career, cutting his whiff rate from 34 percent to 27 percent, and on sliders specifically from 44 percent to 23 percent.

There’s still more chase than you’d like but if that’s his worst attribute, we’re miles ahead of where he was a year ago. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have to make a similar adjustment again in the majors, and maybe struggle with contact in his first year or so after he gets the call, but I’m way more optimistic about the probability of him making that adjustment and maintaining it going forward than I was at this point last year.”

Wood generated a lot of excitement this spring when he hit .364/.509/.705 with four homers and 11 walks in 22 big-league spring training games. Then he got off to a fast start in Triple A before missing three weeks with a hamstring injury suffered in late May. He returned to the field on June 18.

Wood isn’t just a power prospect, having stolen 58 bases in 282 career minor-league games. He’s played all three outfield positions in the minors but has split most of his time this season between center and left. Wood will debut at Nationals Park as a hometown kid. He grew up in the D.C. area before finishing his high school time in Florida at the IMG Academy.

Additional reading



Nationals 2024 top 20 prospects: Dylan Crews, James Wood lead the way



Ranking the top 50 MLB prospects after first two months: Jackson Holliday still tops list



Bowden: 6 MLB prospects who are major-league-ready and just waiting for the call

(Photo of Wood from spring training: Nick Cammett / Diamond Images via Getty Images)