Since this is the mid-season write-up, it's just a quick overview of the player. When we get to the preseason re ranking in the offseason, they'll be a lot more involved.
Stats are current as of 8/4/2019.
Write-ups were published during all-star week.
Prospect #10: RHP Jake Woodford
Drafted in the 1st round of the 2015 draft
First off, if the Cardinals need another starter, and if they decide to look outside of the 40-man roster, Jake Woodford should be the starter that gets the call. He's done enough this year to both deserve and warrant that promotion.
This is, in large part, because Woodford's breaking ball appears to have taken a huge step forward. It's a very good pitch. He doesn't always command it, but it's allowed him to throw his fastball up in the zone, while playing the breaking pitch off of it. Or, rather, the breaking pitch is allowing for the fastball to play off of it. I don't know. What I'm trying to say is, Woodford is using these pitches well with each other. He's also throwing a change-up infrequently that's doing a good job of keeping hitters off-balance. He manages to induce ground balls when needed, and there is a craftiness in the way that he pitches that helps to demonstrate an advanced understanding of pitching. One of the other things that I've always loved about Woodford is that you can tell that he throws with his entire body, and not just his arm.
Another one of the positive developments for Woodford during the 2019 season has been an increase in, and sustainability with, the fastball. Just last season, Woodford would live in the 90-92 range for the duration of a start, with the ability to pump it into the 95 MPH range early in a start. This season, he's lived between 92-95 MPH in nearly everyone of his starts, although he has shown signs of a little fatigue lately. Nothing worth worrying about, though. Would you like to see a seven-pitch battle that displays Woodford's entire arsenal? Yeah, I thought so! I love this next gif because you get to see him battle back after going down 2-0. This is a great sequence of pitches, and it's really good execution, as well (and Andrew Knizner deserves credit for the pitch calling here):
A quick recap before moving on; all of Woodford's pitches are better than what they've been in the past, his velocity is better, and his command of those pitches is better. Because of these advancements in his development, Woodford has seen his K% rate increase from 15% in 2018 to 20% in 2019, his home runs allowed rate decline by about .1%, and his hits per nine innings decrease from around 11 per 9 innings in 2018, to right around 7.8 hits per nine innings in 2019. That's the kind of progress that should get your nipples hard.
The only concerning trend with Woodford is his walk rate, which has increased about 3% percent from last year, from 9.4% to 12.7%. So, Woodford is doing a better job of keeping the ball out of play, but he's doing it while throwing more pitches. The good news is, I don't view this as a command issue, per se. I think he's doing a good job of living on the edges of the strike zone while hoping that the opponent chases his trash. One stat that I find interesting, is that he's only hit two batters this year after hitting 12 a year ago. This doesn't necessarily mean that his command is better (although it clearly is), but I think it helps to illustrate that Woodford is being smart about how he's pitching. That being said, it could also mean, simply, that he's just not throwing inside as much. I feel like I've watched him pitch inside plenty, but it something that I'm going to have to keep a closer eye on.
Woodford has done some amazing work in his pursuit of a future rotation spot with the Cardinals. Nearly everything is trending in the right direction. There's still development to be had, and I'm anxious to see what his personal ceiling looks like.
Thanks to Fangraph for the stats!
Thanks For Reading!!