MiLB Player of the Week Spotlight: Nationals' James Wood

September 20th, 2023

James Wood comes from a basketball family -- his father played at the University of Richmond and his sister, Sydney, was an All-Big 10 Conference selection at Northwestern University -- but the massive 6-foot-6, 240-pound outfielder couldn't be happier to be playing baseball close to home -- and it shows.

The second-ranked Nationals prospect balled out over five games for Double-A Harrisburg en route to being named the Minor League Player of the Week in the Eastern League for the second time this season. Wood batted .450 (9-for-20) -- hitting safely in all five contests -- while notching a trio of multihit efforts and finishing with six RBIs. His previous Player of the Week honors came in the South Atlantic League as a member of High-A Wilmington during the week of May 8-14.

"Yeah, I played a little bit [of basketball] in high school, but when I transferred schools I decided to just focus on baseball," Wood told MLB Network's Harold Reynolds on MLB Tonight. "I mean, growing up I was always in the gym with them shooting around, doing all that, so there’s definitely an influence there."

The Senators' season is over, but Wood finished the year on a high note -- collecting seven knocks over his final three games, including a pair of doubles and mashing his 26th home run of the year (18th at Double-A) on the final day of the regular season. Since being promoted to Harrisburg on May 28, MLB's No. 7 overall prospect posted a .248/.334/.492 slash line with 40 extra-base hits, 55 RBIs, 48 runs scored and went 10-for-12 in stolen base attempts. The lefty swinger also proved to be a bit of an anomaly -- finding more success against left-handers than righties.

"I’m not really sure why," Wood told MLB Network. "I think I go up there with a plan against left-handers that I was able to execute a little bit better. Just trying to drive the ball to all fields. So I just feel like that plays to my approach a little bit better."

Over 129 combined games this year, Wood slashed .262/.353/.520 with 91 RBIs and 18 successful swipes. The 21-year-old also had his 55-grade fielding tool on display as he sported a .979 fielding percentage across 113 total games in center and right at two levels of the Minors. Wood was named a starter for the National team in the MLB Futures Game in July. In two plate appearances the Rockville, Md. native worked a walk and showed off his speed on a groundout to second.

The imposing outfielder was selected in the second round (No. 62 overall) of the 2021 MLB Draft by the Padres out of IMG Academy in Fla. After a breakout campaign in first full pro season last year when he hit .337/.453/.601 with 10 homers and 15 steals in 50 games at Single-A Lake Elsinore, Wood became a big part of the prospect return in the Juan Soto blockbuster trade.

"It was definitely a blessing," he said of the trade. "Coming back to Washington, playing for the hometown team. I mean, it kind of took me by surprise for sure but I’m really excited for the opportunity and just super excited to work with the Nationals and they’ve been great so far."

He's wasted no time making an impression with his new organization since -- hitting .293 with two homers, eight doubles, 10 walks and 17 RBIs over 21 games with Single-A Fredericksburg to conclude last season before his first big league camp with the Nationals in the spring. The move to the Nationals also reunited him in the same organization with former high school teammate -- and Nats' 2022 first-round Draft selection -- Elijah Green.

"I’m sure I’m going to be seeing him around and I'm really looking forward to playing with him again," Wood said. "This is going to be a lot of fun."

And although the offseason just began for the 21-year-old, he is ready to turn the page on this year and get started on his goals for next season.

"I definitely plan on hitting the weights pretty hard, put on some weight," Wood said. "I mean, I lost a little bit throughout the season, which happens sometimes, but I’m just really, really looking forward to getting myself prepared so that I’m ready to hit the ground running come springtime next year."