James Wood Comes Home In Trade To Nationals

Outfielder James Wood is 6-foot-7, just like American League single-season home run king Aaron Judge, but he admires Judge mostly for how he carries himself.

“I think I look up to Aaron Judge more off the field than on the field,” Wood said. “From everything I hear, he’s a stand-up guy. I hope to gain that kind of reputation in the future.”

The 20-year-old Wood could represent a key part of the Nationals’ future after they acquired him—plus four other promising young players—in the trade deadline deal that sent Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the Padres.

Wood made an immediate impact at Low-A Fredericksburg, where he hit .293/.363/.463 in 21 games.

“Really by the middle of first homestead, I felt like I was back in the flow of things,” Wood said.

On the other side of the country, the lefthanded-hitting Wood had hit .337/.452/.601 in 50 games for Low-A Lake Elsinore. He appeared in just 76 total games while dealing with wrist and knee injuries.

“Of course, the ball flies in the Cal League a little bit more, but the biggest adjustment was getting used to the whole league,”Wood said. “Out in the Cal League, I was used to how they were going to pitch me. So (after the trade), I saw a lot of arms I haven’t seen before. But that was a good way to learn.”

Wood was also closer to home after the trade. He grew up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. He attended St. John’s College High in D.C. before transferring to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for his junior year.

The Padres drafted Wood in the second round in 2021 and signed him for $2.6 million—nearly double the slot value—to bypass Mississippi State.

Wood’s father Kenny was a starter on the 15th-seeded Richmond basketball team that upset No. 2 seed Syracuse in the 1991 NCAA tournament. Though James played basketball in high school, he has long preferred baseball and has patrolled center field since he first started playing.

He will spend this offseason working out primarily in Maryland and Florida.

“I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Wood said. “I just want to keep working on my body and make sure I’m able to stay healthy.”


— Righthander Rodney Theophile pitched two scoreless innings in the Panama City qualifier to help Nicaragua reach the main field of the World Baseball Classic for the first time. Theophile, 23, went 6-8, 3.25 with 110 strikeouts in 102 1/3 innings in 2022 between Low-A Fredericksburg and High-A Wilmington.

— Triple-A Rochester third baseman Jake Alu, a 24th-round pick out of Boston College in 2019, was named the International League’s top player for the final month of the season, when the 25-year-old hit .409/.442/.761 with seven home runs in 88 at-bats.

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