Nationals’ James Wooden can do massive issues and will get the little ones proper – eastpowernews

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The performs that get circulated on social media are each apparent and acceptable as a result of nobody else in Washington Nationals camp — shoot, valuable few others in baseball — can produce the sort of halfway-to-Mars house runs that James Wooden launched within the first two video games of spring coaching. The primary, on Saturday evening, was majestic, operating previous the grass berm in proper subject at Park of the Palm Seashores. The second, on Sunday, was majestic, finishing up over the middle subject fence of Roger Dean Stadium up the street in Jupiter.

However in evaluating and digesting the begin to Wooden’s spring — which is the buzziest a part of a Nats camp that has respectable buzz — take into account the little curler he hit to the fitting aspect of the infield Sunday, a ball in that no man’s land between the pitcher, an incoming second baseman and a primary baseman making an attempt to resolve whether or not to cost ahead or retreat to the bag. Right here got here Wooden, all 6-foot-6 and 235 kilos of him, striding like a cheetah.

“You noticed that, too?” stated Delino DeShields, Wooden’s supervisor final 12 months at Class AA Harrisburg. “Wow.”

“We’re all sitting there like, ‘Did you not simply see that?’” stated Dylan Crews, one other outfielder on the rise. “That was spectacular.”

The end result was nothing as a result of Miami Marlins second baseman Luis Arráez acquired to the ball simply in time to flip to first for the out. Perhaps the one facet of Nats camp extra spectacular than Wooden within the field is Wooden on the bottom paths, the place he swallows up floor like Joey Chestnut gobbles up scorching canines.

“It seemed prefer it took six steps for him to get there,” Crews stated. “It’s loopy how briskly he can transfer for a way massive he’s.”

February is an ideal time to get overly excited a few participant who hasn’t taken an everyday season at-bat above Class AA, who simply turned 21 in September. Wooden can have his time, and it in all probability received’t be on March 28, when the Nationals open the season in Cincinnati.

“There’s spots on this group to be received,” veteran lefty Patrick Corbin stated, “and he’s acquired nearly as good an opportunity as any.”

Let’s not get into enjoying common supervisor in the mean time. That’s Mike Rizzo’s job, and people selections can be decided after a month of spring coaching video games, not three. The necessary half about Wooden’s early performances right here isn’t the place he’ll find yourself enjoying in April. It’s who he’s and the way he goes about issues.

“Go outdoors of his expertise as a result of that’s very, very apparent, proper?” stated DeShields, who performed 13 seasons within the majors. “He’s only a actual clever dialog. Actually sensible. Simply someone that you could have your ideas collectively if you strategy him as a result of it’s going to be a critical dialog.”

Wooden appears to have a critical strategy. On Monday morning, as he ready to take batting observe on a again subject right here in a bunch that included Crews and fellow prospect Robert Hassell III, Wooden walked to the dugout to retrieve a big moveable speaker and wheeled it towards the cage. He didn’t, nonetheless, pump the tunes, as an alternative setting the quantity to a stage at which coaches and gamers may hear one another. When he stepped into the field for his first spherical of swings — he’s a left-handed hitter — he deliberately let the ball journey deep within the zone and swung late, spraying balls down the left subject line, the alternative means.

“I don’t like pulling the ball in BP,” he stated. “I simply need to keep contained in the baseball.”

That trick permits Wooden to judge how lengthy he may wait on a fastball and offers him time to regulate if a breaking pitch comes as an alternative. It additionally reveals a maturity in preparation that’s unusual for 21-year-olds.

“He simply does every part, actually, the fitting means,” Supervisor Dave Martinez stated. “Even if you watch him play protection, his pre-pitch [preparation] is nice. He will get jumps on balls. He runs the bases exhausting. … I’ve acquired no complaints. I like watching him play.”

Wooden’s measurement is can’t-miss, and it certainly generates a lot of his energy. One longtime member of the group in contrast Wooden’s offensive recreation to that of Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich, a former Nationwide League MVP. It’s instructive that Yelich, at 6-3 and 207 kilos, is a full three inches shorter and almost 30 kilos lighter than Wooden. Martinez stated he thinks Wooden, who got here to the Nationals from the San Diego Padres as a part of the haul for Juan Soto two summers in the past, appears thicker by the torso and, one way or the other, wider within the shoulders in contrast with final spring.

“I informed him, ‘Hey, I feel your shoulders are simply,’ ” and he began widening a “V” along with his arms, “ ‘like your wings are sprouting.’ ”

“You assume like an Aaron Choose-type participant,” Corbin stated, referencing the New York Yankees’ 6-7, 282-pound behemoth. “There’s simply not too a lot of these guys within the recreation.”

However Wooden doesn’t take the facility that such a body can produce and switch it right into a violent swing. His first homer, off Houston minor leaguer Misael Tamarez’s fastball, got here from a simple, balanced swing. It produced a thwack that made individuals in all places within the park whip their necks round with a begin.

“His swing is so easy,” stated infield prospect Trey Lipscomb, Wooden’s offseason coaching accomplice and spring coaching roommate. “However we have been joking within the locker room like, ‘Hey, did you see the homer?’ ‘Nah, however I heard it.’”

It traveled 422 ft. His homer Sunday was perhaps extra spectacular as a result of it got here each off a lefty — veteran Miami reliever Devin Smeltzer — and off a sweeping breaking ball, almost a duplicate of a pitch he had swung by earlier within the at-bat.

It additionally traveled 422 ft.

“I really feel like I’ve gotten myself prepared,” Wooden stated, “and it’s simply sort of time simply to go on the market and compete.”

Within the last inning of Monday’s 6-3 loss to the New York Mets, after Wooden had pushed in a run with a single in his first at-bat, got here one other not-flashy-but-very-important step. Dealing with right-hander Joander Suarez, Wooden laid off two borderline pitches simply off the skin fringe of the plate. As an alternative of increasing the strike zone, he walked.

“That’s what we’re speaking about proper there,” Martinez stated.

Camp is three video games outdated. A month’s value of exhibition video games await, after which the common season begins. James Wooden has all of seven plate appearances. However he already has produced two worthy highlights that wow anybody who sees them and is filling all the opposite stuff that issues in between.

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