Minor League Player Spotlight: Nats' James Wood

May 18th, 2024

James Wood entered the season with one goal on his mind -- finding consistency in his game. After a bit of a roller coaster season last year, the 21-year-old just wanted to create continued success on the field. Early on in 2024, it's safe to say: so far, so good.

Wood was named Minor League Player of the Week in the International League after pulverizing balls to the tune of five home runs and 12 RBIs while going 10-for-22 in six games between May 6-12. Over his past seven games, MLB's No. 5 overall prospect is batting .462 with five dingers, 14 RBIs and a jaw-dropping 1.608 OPS.

"I think the big thing was just trying to be consistent," Wood said on MLB Network's Off Base to a panel that included Lauren Gardner, Xavier Scruggs and Ariel Epstein. "I think last year I had some good stretches and I had some not so good stretches, so I think the main goal this year was to get myself a plan so I could sustain that success for as long as possible."

The top Nationals prospect notched a pair of multihomer games last week -- bringing his tally to three on the season. He clubbed five jacks over three straight contests, hit safely in all six games of the week and set a new career-high with a six-RBI effort on May 11.

"I think just going to the field and trying to prepare myself the best I can each day," Wood told MLB Network. "Just getting with my coaches and getting good reports. And then just trying to carry that through to the game."

Over 38 games this season, the 2021 second-round Draft selection of the Padres (No. 62 overall) is slashing .356/.460/.582 with seven homers, 12 doubles, 35 runs scored, 29 walks and has gone 9-for-10 in stolen base attempts.

After Wood's two-tater game on May 8, Nationals manager Dave Martinez noted his impressive play but also mentioned that the organization wants to see more progress before considering a big league callup. Martinez cited more at-bats (Wood has 975 in four years as a pro), adjustments to better handle left-handers and improved baserunning as three items on the 21-year-old's to-do list.

The D.C. Metro native remains locked-in on what he can control.

"I just have a set of goals myself and I just focus on what I can do to achieve those goals that I set for myself," Wood said. "And I think that as long as I'm focused on those, then I think that it makes it a little tougher for the goals of other people to kind of sneak in."

Wood spent parts of his first two pro seasons in the Padres organization before being a centerpiece in the Juan Soto deal at the Trade Deadline in 2022. The IMG Academy product split time last season between High-A Wilmington and Double-A Harrisburg where he posted a .262/.353/.520 slash line with 26 long balls, eight triples, 28 doubles, 91 RBIs, 80 runs scored, 65 walks and 18 stolen bases over 129 combined games.

And although hailing from a family with basketball roots, Wood maintains that pursuing baseball was always the natural fit.

"It never really felt like a tough decision, I always felt like I love baseball more," said Wood, who acknowledged that he began to tailor his game after Curtis Granderson as he got older. "I feel like with baseball, whenever I was practicing, never really felt like a practice to me. I always enjoyed the work aspect of baseball."