The 2021 MLB Draft will begin on July 11, 2021. Let’s take a look at James Wood, one of the top prep outfielders in the class. The powerful left-handed hitter out of IMG Academy in Florida really went under the radar until this past year, when he shot up draft boards.
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James Wood, Outfielder, IMG Academy
Weight: 230 lbs.
2020: 9 G, .348/.464/.739, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 8 R, 2 SB
2021: 25 G, .258/.478/.500, 3 HR, 26 RBI, 30 R, 9 SB
James Wood transferred to IMG Academy from his hometown in Maryland for his junior season. He was hitting very well over the first nine games before the pandemic canceled the season. His play on the showcase circuit was tremendous and put him right into the first-round conversation. The Mississippi State commit hails from an athletic family – his father played professional basketball in Europe and his sister plays hoops at Northwestern University.
Wood has tons of raw power from his massive frame, and will only tap into it more as he fills out. He has shown off that power a lot in batting practice and at times in games. Once he can learn to stay back on breaking pitches and use his lower half, the power will come naturally. Even with his big frame, Wood has wheels which he takes advantage of on the basepaths and while patrolling center. He covers a lot of ground in the field, takes good reads off the bat, and has a strong arm. His great arm would fit well in right field if he sees a decrease in speed as he fills out. He is a potential five-tool star if he takes the proper development.
There have been times where there is a hole in Wood’s swing. He tries too much to use all hands and his upper body at that plate. With his raw power, he needs to just trust that the homers will come if he has a more balanced approach. While it isn’t really a weakness, teams will want to see that he can fill his body out with more muscle and not lose his tremendous athleticism. It doesn’t look like it will be much of a problem for the kid, as he has an outstanding work ethic and is always looking to improve. With his commitment to Mississippi State, there could be some signability concerns. But if is drafted early enough, he would most likely sign.
Pro Comparison: Aaron Judge
The frames are almost exactly the same and Judge also had a lot of raw power coming out of high school. Judge has exceeded expectations since he got to the major leagues in 2016 and his power is fully there. While Wood has a lot more speed, Judge is quick enough to make things happen. The New York Yankees‘ right fielder still has some swing-and-miss in his game, but he has put enough production that it can be tolerated. Wood will need to trust in his game and power if he hopes to turn into the player that Judge is.
Draft Projection: Round 1, Pick 16, Miami Marlins
The Marlins went all-in on arms last year and now could turn to developing a solid prep bat. Wood also profiles similarly to Christian Yelich, who the Marlins drafted in the first round back in 2010 out of Westlake High School. The now Milwaukee Brewers‘ slugger was actually a first baseman out of high school, but had the versatility to move to the outfield, and has stuck there since. This time maybe the Marlins will be able to hold onto Wood once he potentially develops into the type of player Yelich is.