James Wood promoted: Nationals call up MLB's No. 6 prospect and key to Juan Soto trade

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One of the game’s top prospects made his MLB debut Monday. The Washington Nationals promoted outfield prospect James Wood to the big leagues for Monday’s series opener against the New York Mets (NYM 9, WAS 7 in 10 innings). Wood was in the starting lineup, batting sixth and playing left field. In his first at-bat, he singled to left field for his first MLB hit.

All told, Wood went 1 for 4 with a walk and a strikeout in his debut. He worked the count full against Mets lefty David Peterson, then poked a single beyond a diving Francisco Lindor in his first at-bat. Wood struck out in his second at-bat, grounded out to second in his third at-bat, reached on an error by lefty Jake Diekman in his fourth at-bat, then walked in his fifth trip to the plate.

Here is Wood’s first big league knock:

Wood has spent the season in Triple-A, where he’s batted .346/.458/.578 with 10 home runs, 34 runs batted in, and 10 stolen bases on 11 tries. The 21-year-old was originally drafted in the second round of the 2021 draft. He was viewed as the crown jewel of the trade that sent Juan Soto to the San Diego Padres. That deal is now responsible for three members of the Nationals roster, with Wood joining left-hander MacKenzie Gore — Monday’s starting pitcher — and shortstop CJ Abrams. CBS Sports recently detailed why we believed Wood’s arrival was imminent. 

Coming into the season, CBS Sports ranked Wood as the sixth best prospect in the minors. Here’s what we wrote at the time:

Wood, the key to the Juan Soto trade from the Nationals’ perspective, is a fascinating prospect. He’s listed at 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds and he’s already capable of massive displays of raw power. (Six of his 28 home runs were hit to left or left-center field.) And yet, take one look at him and it’s clear that he has room on his frame to add even more muscle over the coming years. As that comes to fruition, two other developments will take place: 1) he’ll outgrow center field, and 2) he’ll turn into one of the best sluggers in baseball. The one potential snag here is that Wood’s combination of length and patience makes him extremely prone to strikeouts. He punched out in nearly 34% of his trips to the plate in Double-A, which would’ve qualified as the highest rate in the majors. His on-base and slugging potential will enable him to remain productive even with a poor strikeout rate, but there’s superstar upside here if he can get it closer to 30% before he reaches the majors.

Eddie Rosario was designated for assignment as the corresponding move to get Wood on both the active and 40-player rosters.

The Mets spoiled Wood’s debut with a ten-inning win Monday. The win improved New York to 41-41 this year. The Nationals fell to 39-45, but with Wood now in the show, better days should be ahead.

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