While injuries have stalled his ascent, righthander William Woods remains an interesting hard-thrower in the Braves’ system.
Woods drew positive reviews at the alternate training site a year ago and impressed as an invitee to spring training. Braves manager Brian Snitker lauded Woods, a 23rd-round pick out of junior college in 2018, before the season began.
“That delivery, once he gets comfortable and confident, he can reach back and get even more,” Snitker said. “I really like the delivery and the stuff.”
But Woods didn’t emerge as hoped. The righty, who turns 23 this offseason, was sidelined by an elbow injury that limited him to just five games. He made four starts for High-A Rome, posting a 4.66 ERA with seven strikeouts and four walks in 9.2 innings.
Woods has logged just 61.2 innings over the past three seasons due to injuries and the pandemic. Yet his pure stuff makes him intriguing. He throws a three-pitch mix that includes a mid-90s fastball complemented by a slider and changeup.
Woods has shown some of his promise. In his best outing, he struck out seven and walked only one over four scoreless innings. But he’s still shown the inconsistent command that’s plagued him thus far.
In his minor league career, Woods has fanned 86 in 82.1 innings but also issued 43 walks. His command, along with his health, will determine his future. Woods might be destined for a relief role, where his fastball/slider combo could be valuable, but the Braves haven’t reached that point yet.
The Braves aren’t stocked with blue-chip pitching prospects anymore, graduating or trading most of the players en route to their 2021 World Series championship. They’re looking for pitchers like Woods to emerge and strengthen their organizational depth.
— In their first move of the offseason, the Braves signed veteran catcher Manny Piña to a two-year deal. They wanted a steady backup for Travis d’Arnaud after spending much of the 2020 season shuffling through journeymen backstops with d’Arnaud injured.
— The Braves’ future at catcher is Shea Langeliers, who impressed in Double-A this season. The team also has William Contreras, who appeared in 52 games in 2021 and was Travis d’Arnaud’s backup during the World Series run. In an era where catching depth is rare, the Braves are the rare team that is deep at catcher.