In 2013, the Rays drafted RHP Stephen Woods with their 6th round selection (188th overall) out of Half Hollow Hills East HS, Dix Hills, N.Y., where he was described as having a FB that could run between 88 and 92 mph while also having a decent curve.
At the time, the Rays had a pool amount for that pick of $220,600 and a ceiling of $357,400. In the end, they couldn’t come to an agreement and he attended the University of Albany while the Rays refocused that budget to sign 11th round selection Hunter Lockwood (released) to a well above slot $247,500.
After spending 2014, 2015, and 2016 in University, Woods was selected later in the draft by the San Francisco Giants in the 8th round (245th overall) and subsequently signed to a $200,000 contract. In his final season in University, Woods managed a 4-5 record with a 5.57 ERA over 64.2 innings of work with 41 BBs and 88 Ks.
The Giants put Woods to work immediately in 2016 and he put up the following stats over a short time that season:
With a not exactly a stellar line, he was omitted from the Giants top 30 prospects list put out by Baseball America. Would he fare any better in 2017 where he went on to full-season play?
In truth, aside from the ugly walk numbers, there are some decent items to build on from his 2017 season. He’s shown an ability to keep both LHB (.211) and RHB (.244) in check, he doesn’t allow many HRs -- only 3 over 110 innings in 2017 -- and he’s shown an ability to miss bats.
Then, “THE Trade” happened, and he’s part of the Rays organization.
They weren’t able to sign Woods after drafting him, but the Rays finally got their hands on signed Woods and now we get to see what they’re able to get out of his arm.
With that in mind, what will his role be going forward?
Bullpen vs Rotation
The conversation around Woods falls in the argument of whether or not he can ever harness his stuff enough to become a starter as he moves up. Armed with a good fastball (95-96 MPH), a hard curve and hard cutter, and what some call an “unusually firm change up” which he puts up in mid-80s, he’ll need to work on command in order to remain a starter.
He joins quite a few recent trade acquisitions that fit a similar profile of hard-throwing command and control issue pitchers. The Rays most recently acquired Jeffry Rosa and Curtis Taylor, both of which had similar profiles when acquired.
With the cost of relievers consistently rising, it could be that the Rays have that role in mind for Woods going forward, but they’ll surely wait to see what he has to offer first-hand before deciding on a role for 2018. Woods will face stiff competition from a Rays system that has an extremely competitive herd of arms fighting for few spots in the system’s rotations.