When will James Wood get called up?

The Nationals top prospect tore it up in Spring Training, but was ultimately assigned to AAA Rochester for more seasoning. After a torrid start to the season there, it is only a matter of time before Wood's play forces the Nationals to call him up.
Washington Nationals v Minnesota Twins
Washington Nationals v Minnesota Twins / Brace Hemmelgarn/GettyImages

The Nationals have enjoyed their best start to a season in quite some time. Even the World Series winning 2019 team was not this good, this early. Does that mean the Nationals are playoff bound? Not necessarily - there is still a ton of baseball left. But it is at least nice to be in the conversation.

If you travel back to 2018, a time that seems like it was ages ago, you will vaguely remember the Nationals battling injuries in the outfield and calling up a young, up-and-coming prospect that ended up never leaving. Yes, that guy was Juan Soto. Now ultimately that 2018 team severely disappointed in Davey Martinez's first year at the helm, but adding Soto when they did undoubtedly set the stage for what was to come a year later.

I bring this up for a couple of reasons. The first and foremost being that the Nationals are not shy calling up young players. Soto was only 19 when he was called up, as was Bryce Harper when he made his debut back in 2012. Not only were both prospects very young and without years of minor league experience, they were both called up in the midst of playoff pushes. So despite the added pressure of needing to perform, the Nationals made the call that was best for the team. And for the most part, it worked out great.

Now back to present day, and the Nationals are (technically) in a playoff push. It is very early, I know, as we are only 36 games into the season. This team is also not nearly as talented as the 2012 or 2018 teams were, I know that as well. I also believe that unless the Nationals are in contention for the NL East title, which is unlikely, that they should still be sellers at the trade deadline regardless of the Wild Card standings. Next season seems like a much more reasonable time to consider buying at the deadline or even in the offseason.

With all that being said, I think the Nationals should operate like they are in a playoff push until they are not. And in order to do that, you have to put your best roster, and lineup, forward.

James Wood should get called up immediately.

Enter: James Wood.

Wood, 21, is older than both Soto and Harper were at the time they made their debuts. Wood's situation is similar to Soto's in that the big league roster is currently facing many injuries in the outfield and Wood could be the beneficiary of those opportunities if given the chance.

Wood is currently tearing it up at AAA Rochester, as he has five home runs in 125 ABs with a .995 OPS. Wood has actually hit three home runs in the past two games.

It would seem to most that it is only a matter of time before Wood should be called up. Unfortunately, it does not seem that simple.

Despite Wood's recent hot stretch, Manager Davey Martinez indicated they are "sticking to their plan" regarding when the team would promote Wood.

It would make me, and I'm sure most fans, happy if we knew what the plan was, but we are stuck just guessing when we will see James Wood in the big leagues.

Martinez cited getting Wood more ABs against Left Handed pitching, which is honestly a fair argument. As of May 9th, Wood is only hitting .207 with a .729 OPS against southpaws versus .385 and a 1.070 OPS against righties. However, Wood did homer off a lefty this week, so perhaps those splits are slowly narrowing in disparity.

The second part of Martinez's argument is that they do not want to platoon Wood if they call him up. This argument is a bit more flimsy when you take a quick glance at the Nationals current roster.

Players like Joey Meneses and Eddie Rosario are getting everyday ABs and playing time despite having dreadful seasons. If the Nationals really wanted to play Wood over either of them, they would not meet any opposition. The opportunity in the outfield is especially present with both Lane Thomas and Joey Gallo on the injured list. With Meneses' lackluster performance at DH, the Nationals could even get creative and open up Left Field for Wood by moving Jesse Winker to be their everyday DH. I doubt they do any of this, but I am just saying they could if they wanted to. There are not enough players actively performing well enough to force a potential platoon.

Instead, it seems like the Nationals do not want to call him up, at least not yet. This certainly could pertain to the Nationals desire to give him more experience against Lefty pitching, as Martinez said in his presser. It also could have something to do with the Super 2 Deadline. In layman's terms, this is the deadline that determines when a player is eligible for arbitration based on how much service time they have accrued. Basically, this is the deadline teams will circle if they want to manipulate service time and gain an extra year of control.

In Wood's case, that deadline will pass in a couple of weeks, so if Wood is called up in early June, he still would not accrue enough time this season to start arbitration a year early. In the Nationals case, they get him this year and for an extra year on the back end. It certainly sucks for the players, but it is a common tactic utilized by MLB teams. The Nationals are just one of many.

Regardless, there is no reason to not call up Wood once the Super 2 Deadline passes if Wood continues to perform the way he currently is now. He is certainly better than several of their current everyday options, and if the team is still hanging around .500 or better a month from now, calling up Wood could be the boost the team needs to really push through the dog days of summer.

Every Nats fan wants to see Wood as soon as possible, and I am certainly in that camp. But I do not think we see him before June, and it may even be closer to July with certain players scheduled to return from injury and muddying the waters a bit. But if players like Meneses, Gallo and Rosario (who admittedly has been better in the past week) continue to struggle the way they have so far, there is absolutely no justification for not making a move to get better and move on from them, especially if they have no trade value.

Ultimately I will guess that Wood is called up June 14th, in time for a homestand against the Marlins and Diamondbacks. That gives Wood another month in AAA to iron out some of the weaknesses in his game. But as we have seen the past two seasons, it may not be until after the trade deadline via the way of several player releases that pave the way for Wood to get called up.