Last week I traveled to Tampa, Florida to catch the Blue Jays and the Rays play at Tropicana Field. While there, I ventured to nearby Clearwater, Florida, to see the Toronto Blue Jays’ high-A affiliate, the Dunedin Blue Jays, play the Clearwater Threshers. Starting for the D-Jays was recently acquired pitcher Simeon Woods Richardson, who you may remember from the Marcus Stroman trade deadline deal.
If you don’t recall, Toronto Blue Jays ace Marcus Stroman was traded to the New York Mets in exchange for pitching prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson. Kay is much more advanced and currently pitches in Triple-A Buffalo for the Bisons. The trade was hotly debated, and many Blue Jays fans didn’t feel that Jays GM Ross Atkins was able to negotiate a valuable enough return for Marcus Stroman. Neither Kay or Woods Richardson appear on any of the industry’s standard top 100 prospect lists.
Woods Richardson was the Mets’ second round pick (#48) in the 2018 draft. The 6’3″ 210lbs. right-handed pitcher has an electric fastball that can touch 97mph, to go along with a 12-6 curveball, a slider, and a developing changeup. Assigned to the high-A South Atlantic League this year, Woods Richardson put up a respectable 4.25 ERA with 97 strikeouts to only 17 walks in 78.1 innings. One other thing: he’s only 18 years old!
Following the trade, Woods Richardson was assigned to high-A Dunedin of the Florida State League and struggled in his first start. The game I attended was Woods Richardson’s second start for Dunedin. Now on to the video!
Woods Richardson is known for being able to generate an exceptional downward plane on his fastball, and it eats up right-handed hitters as it bores in on their hands. This was the case in Woods Richardson’s strikeout of Jhailyn Ortiz, but notice where the catcher set up: the outside corner of the plate. This was a theme for Woods Richardson throughout the game. While he had control of his pitches – the ability to throw strikes – he didn’t have command of his pitches. In other words, many times he couldn’t spot his pitches where he or his catcher wanted them.
Against left-handed hitters, Woods Richardson’s fastball is still effective because it starts on the plate and then sails out of reach, as seen here in a strikeout of Daniel Brito.
As mentioned previously, here’s an example of Woods Richardson’s lack of command. The catcher calls for a fastball outside, but the pitch ends up being centre-cut and elevated, resulting in an opposite-field home run by Threshers catcher Nick Matera. This would prove to be the theme of the day for Woods Richardson: he had electric stuff, but every time he made a mistake the Threshers made him pay. It should be noted that Woods Richardson rarely gives up the long ball. In 104.1 career professional innings pitched, he’s allowed seven home runs.
In this at-bat, Woods Richardson throws three straight curveballs. You can see they have a tight spin and a fair amount of depth. He commands it fairly well, but the depth on the pitch can be inconsistent… in this particular start, anyway. This clip shows a curveball that starts way inside to a right-handed hitter and touches the inside part of the plate.
Again, Woods Richardson’s fastball that bores in on right-handed hitters results in this strikeout of the Threshers’ Matt Kroon. This clip provides another great example.
The high heat is so tasty, and the Threshers’ Luke Miller can’t lay off. A more advanced hitter might have put this strikeout pitch in the seats beyond the outfield fence.
Last, but certainly not least, is this great battle Woods Richardson has with Threshers’ catcher Nick Matera. It’s a 9-pitch at-bat that sees Woods Richardson pitch from behind in the count to finish with a strikeout on an explosive fastball.
Simeon Woods Richardson’s day was done after five innings and 62 pitches. He allowed four hits, three earned runs, struck out eight, and walked zero. Although his fastball can touch 97mph, with reports of him being able to touch 99mph, he sat around the 94mph mark, sometimes touching 95. Although Woods Richardson purportedly has a slider, I didn’t see it on this day. There were a few pitches that could be labeled as cutters, and he might have transitioned from a slider to a cut fastball this season. What stood out most to me was Woods Richardson’s aggressiveness; he relentlessly attacked the strike zone and rarely faced a three-ball count.
Overall I was quite impressed with the performance and the pitcher. As an 18-year old, he has poise and mound presence far beyond his years. I’m confident he will continue to refine his command in the minors, build up his pitch count and stamina, and be an impact starter for Toronto in the coming years. Despite not being a consensus top-100 prospect, I anticipate he will end up on most – if not all – within the year.
Woods Richardson will look to help division-leading Dunedin compete for a league title in September.
Featured image photo credit: Callum Hughson/mopupduty.com