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Royals add right-hander to depth in Rule 5 Draft

@FlannyMLB
December 12, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- The Royals didn't make any free-agent signings at the Winter Meetings, but they did add to their pitching depth by taking right-hander Stephen Woods Jr. from the Tampa Bay organization with the No. 4 pick in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday. Woods will have to remain

SAN DIEGO -- The Royals didn't make any free-agent signings at the Winter Meetings, but they did add to their pitching depth by taking right-hander Stephen Woods Jr. from the Tampa Bay organization with the No. 4 pick in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday.

Woods will have to remain on the Royals' active roster for the 2020 season or he will be offered back to Tampa Bay.

Woods was an eighth-round pick of the San Francisco Giants in the 2016 MLB Draft. The following season he was acquired by Tampa Bay as part of the Evan Longoria trade.

The Royals have long had their eye on Woods. They view him as a bullpen piece for now.

"We liked him out of high school and out of college [University of Albany]," Royals assistant general manager Scott Sharp said. "He can really spin the breaking ball. Kind of a traditional right-handed pitcher with 90-95 [mph] on his fastball, but he has a really good breaking ball and we think he can generate a lot of swing and misses on that pitch. It's a true curveball. That can fit in the bullpen because of the swing and miss.

"But he also has the flexibility to start. We're just trying to add depth. We scouted him pretty well and we do have a history with him. He's been on our radar."

Woods was 9-3 with a 1.88 ERA in 18 outings, including 12 starts, for Tampa's Class A Advanced Charlotte team last season. He had a 1.48 ERA and held opponents to a .218 average in the second half of 2019.

Woods, who is 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, walked 64 hitters in 110 innings at Class A Augusta in 2017. He then had shoulder cartilage repair surgery, forcing him to miss the '18 season.

"In his last 50 innings last year, he had 14 walks and 50 strikeouts," Sharp said. "The command issue was a little bit of a knock on him early, but he's handled that and is more dialed in.

"We feel really comfortable with him."

The Royals' 40-man roster is now at 37. That will soon go to 38: The Royals are expected to re-sign right-hander Jesse Hahn, who was non-tendered earlier this month, to a Major League deal.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.