Wood stays red hot with two more homers at Triple-A

May 11th, 2024

It's become glaringly clear over the past few years that the future in the nation’s capital is bright. The Nationals took a step forward in 2023 and are improving again this year with a young core led by CJ Abrams and MacKenzie Gore. Not to mention that Washington has a ton more talent on the way, with four Top 100 prospects (including two in the top 12), per MLB Pipeline.

The evidence has been plain to see lately. On Thursday, the Nats’ top three prospects homered across the top two levels of their system. On Saturday, Washington's No. 2 prospect, , kept that power surge going with two more homers in Triple-A Rochester's 15-3 win in Game 1 of their doubleheader against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

The game's No. 12 overall prospect, Wood has now gone yard in three straight games and five times in his past three contests. His pair of three-run shots were part of an offensive barrage on Saturday, as Nationals No. 19 prospect Drew Millas also went deep twice and rehabbing slugger Joey Gallo homered as well.

It was the latest in a sizzling start in his first stint at Triple-A for Wood, after he rocketed up two levels during his first full season in the Nats organization in 2023. The 21-year-old outfielder put his full range of skills on display in Thursday's win, hooking a left-on-left slider over the right-field wall in the first inning. His first homer on Saturday was almost a carbon copy, with Wood pulling another left-on-left breaking ball over the right field fence.

“His approach is center to left-center field, and he stays on the ball extremely well,” Red Wings manager Matthew LeCroy said. “I don't see him having trouble with lefties at all. He got hold of a slider that the guy made a mistake on and kept it fair. This is what good players do. They're able to hit and it doesn't matter if it's lefty or righty. I'm really excited that we were able to get Woody in our organization because he's really, at some point, going to help our team in the big leagues.”

Over his last three games, Wood is an absurd 6-for-11 with five homers, 12 RBIs, seven runs scored and a stolen base. All told, Wood is slashing a robust .349/.448/.597 with seven homers, 23 RBIs, 31 runs scored and nine steals over his first 33 games at Triple-A.

“Sometimes with a young kid, if they get in a big hole, they have a hard time," LeCroy said. "But even if James did, with his makeup and his mentality, he's not going to panic. And I think that's what's gonna make him a really, really good big leaguer. ... He has the ability to slow the game down, which is really hard for a lot of players, and especially hard for younger players. He plays the game the right way. He just needs to continue to get the experience here.”

One area Wood seems to have taken a massive step forward in is his plate discipline. He sports a super-healthy 24/30 walk-to-strikeout rate so far at Triple-A. He has slashed his strikeout rate by nearly half compared to last season at Double-A, and boosted his walk rate from 10 percent last year to more than 15 percent in the early going of 2024.

“What I saw from him when I saw him in Spring Training for the first time … he had the ability to slow the game down. He didn’t chase. I know last year that was the big thing, he was chasing a little too much. He’s been able to carry over his at-bats from Spring Training here to Triple-A," LeCroy said. "He’s been able to impact the ball. He goes up there with a real good approach and executes his game plan, doesn’t really get away from it much. As long as he continues to control the strike zone, he’s going to continue to put up really, really good numbers.

“He's a special talent and he's gonna be a really impactful big leaguer. Hopefully he stays healthy and goes up to help our big league team at some point.”

Worth noting:

On Thursday, Wood was part of a system-wide power outburst as Nationals top prospect (No. 6 overall) and No. 3 prospect (No. 43 overall) also homered in Harrisburg's 4-0 win over New Hampshire at Delta Dental Stadium.

An organization’s top three prospects all go deep? That’s a good night in any system. For the Nationals, it demonstrates the high-powered upside quickly working its way toward D.C.