Washington Nationals Prospect Spotlight: James Wood

Houston Astros v San Diego Padres
Houston Astros v San Diego Padres / Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/GettyImages

A brand new MLB top 100 prospect list was released last week and the Nationals were well represented. None were ranked higher than James Wood at 17, an outfield prospect acquired last year in a trade with the San Diego Padres involving Juan Soto and Josh Bell. Wood has the most potential out of any prospect in the Nationals system, according to many professional scouts.

Being acquired by the Nationals is a bit of a full circle moment for James, who was born in Rockville, Maryland. On top of that, James played high school baseball at IMG Academy with 2022 first round pick Elijah Green. The two are close friends and tore up the high school competition in Florida together.

As you can see in the picture above, James Wood (on right) is an absolute tank. The 20-year old left handed hitter is 6-foot-7, 240 pounds. For reference, Yankees slugger Aaron Judge is 6-foot-7, 282 pounds. Wood has power to all fields and can hit for average. The outfielder also has speed that is a bit shocking for a player his size.

Professional Career

Drafted in the second round by the Padres in 2021, James Wood is still in the preliminary stages of his baseball career. If there were a 2021 re-draft, I believe James would go top five at least. At every minor league level he's been assigned to he has produced.

At the Padres Arizona complex league, at age 18 years old, Wood hit .372 with three home runs and an OPS of 1.000. I think from that point on the Padres knew what type of prospect they had in Wood, and was starting to rise on prospect lists across the league. View his entire stat line at baseballreference.com.

2022 was the season that established Wood as one of the premier prospects in baseball. Across three teams, he hit .313 with 12 home runs and an OPS of .956. He also stole 20 bases showcasing another one of his skills. Wood played only 76 games due to some injury issues over the course of the season. Staying healthy is always key to a prospect's development.

Developmental Expectations

It's almost unfair to expect a prospect to form into an All-star caliber player, but I don't think it's out of the question for James Wood. Going into his age-20 season, the outfielder has the chance to be a special player in D.C.

I fully expect James Wood to be a 30 home run player, year in and year out. As he matures and understands how pitchers are attacking him, more power will come as he learns which pitches he should key in on. Wood already displays a quality eye at the plate, he walked 50 times in 291 at-bats in 2022. Wood has a sweet left handed swing, starting from an open position, here is video of it and his approach at the plate.

What will be exciting to watch is the development of his skills on the base paths. Adding 20 stolen bases to a lineup adds a whole new dynamic to a baseball team. The Nationals could have lots of speed in their lineup in a few years with James Wood, Elijah Green and CJ Abrams in the lineup. Don't forget about Robert Hassell III, an outfielder who can steal a few himself.

2025 is a reasonable expectation for Wood to be in D.C. If he continues to progress as rapidly as he is today, 2024 is not out of the question. Wood is potentially the centerpiece of the future in Washington, so the Nationals taking their time with Wood would not surprise me in the slightest. A outfield with a combination of James Wood, Elijah Green and Robert Hassell III could be the start of something special in Washington. I certainly cannot wait to see it.