This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.
In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #15, Jake Woodford.
15. Jake Woodford – RHP
1st Round – 2015 Draft
Entering age-21 season
What I Like
There’s so much I love about Jake Woodford. I aggressively ranked him 12th on my personal list. Perhaps 12th is too high, perhaps not, but I see a safe bet in Woodford. Where Junior Fernandez was shaky, Woodford wasn’t, and at a similar age. Among qualifying pitchers, Woodford’s 3.10 ERA was the best in the Florida State League.
Woodford looks like a pitcher. He’s tall (6’4”), with clean mechanics and a Dave Duncan-era sinker. Notice the difference in the following fastballs:
The first, from when he was in high school, is flat. In the second, from his 2016 season in Peoria, has noticeably more sink, even though it’s from a different angle. Fangraphs reported that his velocity dropped from 95 in high school to 92 last season. In a vacuum, that’s a negative development. If he’s sacrificing a little bit of velocity in exchange for more movement, I don’t think that’s a bad thing especially if 95 is still there when he needs it.
It’s only one game, but I love that Woodford pitched well in the postseason. He was the number one on a team that was Florida State League co-champions (due to hurricanes, they did not complete the playoffs). Woodford allowed one run over six innings in his only start. The Cardinals emphasize winning at the minor league levels, so Woodford’s key role in a championship shouldn’t be overlooked.
Statistically, Woodford didn’t allow very many homers and his BB%, which was around 7%, isn’t bad.
The biggest positive regarding Woodford is his age. He completed his age-20 season at High-A and led the league in ERA. By itself, that’s quite the accomplishment. Paired with an organization that churns out righthanded pitchers like clockwork, optimism regarding Woodford’s development is warranted.
What I Don’t Like
It’s becoming a running theme with Cardinals pitchers at the low levels (Tewes and Fernandez come to mind), but Woodford didn’t strike out enough hitters. Part of that is because, in my opinion, Woodford has sacrificed velocity for movement and weak contact. In the Florida State League, that’s an easy trade to make because the hitting environment is so bad, but Woodford showed decent strikeout ability in Peoria (17.9 K%).
His best offspeed pitch is his changeup, so his two primary pitches move arm side. His slider, which is still a work in progress, needs to develop in order to use both sides of the plate effectively. Without a reliable breaking ball, it’s hard to imagine success at the upper levels of the minors (let alone the majors). The good news is, at just 21 years old, he has time to develop that slider and replace the traded Zac Gallen in the organization’s starting pitcher depth chart.
Thanks for reading! As always thanks to Baseball Reference and Fangraphs for their statistics databases. Be sure to check out Kyle’s post tomorrow at Birds On The Black, and listen to Prospect To Be Named Later for even more minor league content.