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Padres Begin To Tap Into James Wood's Immense Talent



High school outfielder James Wood had underperformed to the point that he had played himself out of the first round of the 2021 draft—but not off the Padres’ radar.

That would have been tough to do, given that Wood is 6-foot-7, 240 pounds and owns a powerful lefthanded bat.

The Padres signed Wood for $2.6 million in the second round out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. He got top 30 pick money as the 62nd overall pick.

To begin to tap into the 19-year-old Wood's raw athleticism, the Padres continued with some swing change work that Wood and the IMG Academy coaching staff had toyed with at the end of his senior year.

They widened his stance, positioning him a bit more upright in the batters’ box. They changed his hand positioning, too, to create a little bit more space and a more direct path to the baseball.

The result: Wood hit .372/.465/.535 with three homers in 26 games in the Arizona Complex League. His strikeout rate bordered on 32%, but he was selected with a walk rate of nearly 13%.

Wood also stole 10 bases in 10 tries and showed a quick first step and enough range for the Padres to continue to play him in center field despite his unconventional size.

Of course, a little familiarity helped Wood, too.

Wood had befriended Padres 2021 first-rounder Jackson Merrill while playing in a youth summer league in Olney, Md. The two reconnected on the showcase circuit their senior year and even worked out together after the draft before reporting to the Padres’ complex in Peoria, Ariz., as the organization’s sole high school signees from the class.

Wood’s 2021 continued with an invitation to instructional league. He also participated in minicamps ahead of his first spring training and is likely headed to Low-A Lake Elsinore to start the season, an assignment that mirrors that of 2020 first-rounder Robert Hassell III last year.

Hassell is now firmly entrenched as a Top 100 Prospect.

The Padres have similar hopes for Wood.

FATHER FIGURES 

— The Padres’ full minor league camp begins March 5. Notable prospects who cannot participate during the lockout because they were added to the 40-man roster this offseason include lefthander MacKenzie Gore, second baseman Eguy Rosario and righthanders Steven Wilson and Efrain Contreras.

— Triple-A El Paso will open its season April 5 at Round Rock. Opening Day for Double-A San Antonio, High-A Fort Wayne and Low-A Lake Elsinore is April 8.

James Wood Billmitchell

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