Prospect #18: RHP, Jake Woodford
Previously Ranked 15th in preseason, stays at 20 following July reranking
Drafted in the 1st round of the 2015 draft
THE QUICK WRITE UP
While doing the preseason rankings, I stated that my biggest concern with Woodford is that he allows way too much contact and way too many base runners. I thought that it might do both he and the Cardinals well to start the 2018 season with him back at Palm Beach. From there, they could promote him to Springfield when he showed signs of keeping hitters off of the base paths.
Instead, Woodford started the season at Springfield and he's been hit pretty hard. He allowed 12 home runs in 76 innings before receiving a promotion to Memphis. I do not blame the Cardinals for trying to get Woodford out of the Texas League and the promotion was just as much out of organizational necessity as anything, but it can't be good for his development to have spent any time in AAA this season. I don't think that it necessarily hurts his development, but I know for sure that it doesn't help.
With all of this in mind it is tough to justify ranking Woodford so high on the list. However, I'm not going to hold it against him that the Cardinals are being a little too aggressive with this young man. His breaking pitch has come a long way. While it isn't consistent enough yet, it's been highly impressive at times.
His command has gotten better, as well. He's 21, he was once considered to be the best high school pitcher in the state of Florida, and he has the size necessary to continue to progress. While that stats aren't there, we shouldn't be giving up on Woodford just yet.
WHY TO GET EXCITED
It is both encouraging and exciting to watch a 21-year-old and former first round selection already pitching in AAA.
Speaking of being 21-years-old, that Woodford is so young means that he has years to work through some of his short comings. He's going to be the case where you don't look too much at what he's doing for the rest of the season, but you take great notice one year from now.
When Woodford was drafted, he was considered the best high school pitching prospect in the state of Florida. He edged out 2018 first rounder Brady Singer, among others, for that honor.
Woodford's breaking pitch has come a long way. I really really like his curve ball now. It has the potential to be a 12-6 power-curve.
In prior seasons, Woodford has seen his velocity dip into the 80's on a regular basis. This season, his velocity has gotten better as the season has progressed. The Autozone Park radar gun is a known for being an MPH or two fast, but Woodford was hitting the high 90's in his most recent start. During that start, his fastball was steadily in the mid-to-low 90's. I do not believe that it dipped into the 80's at all.
Woodford has always had a good change up. It's an above average pitch. However, as his curve has developed, Woodford has had to use it less. When he's using that pitch less and his curve ball more, when he's in command of his curve, you can really see all of his promise manifesting.
Woodford has a great frame. He's 6'4" and 215+ pounds. His frame is strong and he uses it to his advantage on the mound, as he almost appears to lumber towards hitters in a somewhat aggressive (but not violent or overly-exerting) way.
If there was a training video on how you should finish your motion in a field position as a pitcher, Woodford would be the pitcher giving the class.
WHY TO BE CAUTIOUS
Woodford puts too many hitters on base. He's walked almost four hitters per nine innings and he's allowed almost ten hits per nine innings. That's not a recipe for success.
Woodford's home run rate has blown up this season. While pitching for Springfield, the rate tripled what his career average was. It's been better over fewer starts for Memphis, but in the "it's still double his career average" kind of way.
Not only is his walk rate too high, his strike out rate is too low. This isn't a surprise for a pitcher that is probably not ready to be pitching in either of the leagues that he's pitched this season, but it really sucks to see.
Speaking of being at a level that might be too advanced for a pitcher, I can't help but wonder about the stunting that might be happening to Woodford's development while he's pitching at Memphis. He isn't ready for that. He is coming off one of his best starts of the season, but that isn't the trend that he's displayed. It's the outlier. Hopefully, it becomes the trend.
The easiest way to put it is, there is still a lot of development for Woodford to do. I'd like to see him doing that development at a more age-appropriate level.
I always think of former Cardinals starting pitcher Todd Wellemeyer when I see or think about Woodford. It just makes too much sense. He has a higher ceiling of course, and it's great to see him doing well in Memphis, currently, but the contact and base runners allowed issues are still there.
Thanks to Fangraphs for the statistical contribution to this write up and these lists.
Thanks For Reading!!