1. He has four legitimate pitches...and maybe a fifth
Woods-Richardson boasts a traditional fastball, slider, curveball, changeup pitch mix and delivers them all from an overhead release point.
His fastball typically sits 91-93 mph but can touch the mid-90s on occasion and features late tailing action that rides in on right-handed batters.
His slider sits in the upper-70s to low-80s and features good horizontal motion with a tight spin. While the pitch will likely not be among the league's elite, it's good enough to strike batters out and induce weak contact.
The curveball sits in the low-70s with a good 12-6 break, though on occasion, it tilts in the 1-7 direction. While Woods-Richardson's fastball is arguably his best pitch, his curveball might be his second-best or at least has the potential to be.
Finally, Woods-Richardson's changeup sits in the low-80s with good tailing action that plays exceptionally well off his fastball. Even on his bad days, his changeup frequently catches opposing batters off guard and sends them flailing.
Although he doesn't deploy it very often, there's some evidence to suggest that Woods Richardson may also be working on a cutter, though it may be just a miss-thrown slider.
Suppose the cutter development is an actual, tangible pitch. In that case, Woods-Richardson may have five MLB-caliber pitchers in his arsenal, which is not something many pitchers can say, regardless of level.
2. He's only 20-years-old
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Woods-Richardson was selected in the second round of the 2018 draft by the New York Mets and later traded to the Jays as the centerpiece of the Marcus Stroman deal. He's already pitched in 44 games in his minor league career and owns a 4.09 ERA and a FIP around 3.00. Almost 44% of his innings have come at High-A or above.
3. Walks have never been an issue of his until his last five starts
Before the 2021 season, Woods-Richardson posted BB/9 numbers of 3.18, 1.95, and 2.22 at rookie ball, Low-A, and High-A, respectively. This season, this walk rate has ballooned to 5.16, though the vast majority of his free passes have come over his last five starts.
So, is Woods-Richardson's control more like what he displayed for most of his minor league career or what he has done over his last handful of starts? That's the critical question when projecting Woods-Richardson's potential. His strikeout numbers have always been stellar, but if his command remains iffy, he may never reach his No. 2 or 3 starter ceiling.
Luckily, as previously mentioned, he's young and has plenty of time to iron out this wrinkle in his game. While his motion is relatively fluid, it features long movements - such as a significant stride and trebuchet arm action - which increases the likelihood of mechanical breakdown and pitch inaccuracy. In many ways, his motion is similar to that of Jordan Balazovic, who also struggles with command from time to time.
If the Twins can tighten up his delivery, even if just a skosh, it may improve his command enough for him to reach his full potential.
4. His peripheral numbers suggest he's been even better than his track record suggests
While Woods-Richardson's ERA currently sits at 5.76 and his career number is, as previously mentioned, 4.09, his FIP numbers paint a completely different story.
FIP's goal as a statistic is to project how a pitcher would perform if he had a league-average defense behind him. The stat aims to neutralize the impact of one's supporting cast on their pitching stats in an attempt to conclude how effective a pitcher truly is. Woods-Richardson's ERA is 5.76, which suggests his performance has been lacking. However, his FIP is 3.78, which indicates that he's been pretty good, especially for a 20-year-old at Double-A.
Before this season, Woods-Richardson had posted FIPs of 2.07, 2.53, and 2.46 at rookie ball, Low-A, and High-A, respectively, compared to ERAs of 0.00, 4.25, and 2.54. In short, he's always been pretty good since getting drafted.
5. He's an Olympian
Woods-Richardson, along with future teammate and fellow new Twin Joe Ryan, is playing on the United States Olympic Baseball team that is currently 2-0 and will soon face Japan in the tournament quarterfinals.