James Wood is having fun in Spring Training. (Photo: Jerry Espinoza)

PEORIA — When the Padres selected 6-foot-7, 240-pound prep outfielder James Wood out of the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida last year, he immediately became of the most interesting – and recognizable – picks of the AJ Preller era. Wood fell to the second round because of a brief rough patch in his senior year, but still received first-round money despite being selected in the second round.

There were some who thought he would struggle to make the transition to professional baseball. Instead, the left-handed-hitting Wood destroyed the Arizona Complex League with a .372/.465/.535 slash line in 101 plate appearances and ranks as our number five overall prospect. He still struck out at a 31.7% clip but offers a truly unique profile as an athletic slugger who can play in the center of the field.

It is a very long way from the ACL to Petco, but it’s also hard to imagine a better start to a pro career. Padres fans should expect to get a glimpse of what could be the future in Lake Elsinore just up I-15 this spring when Wood is expected to patrol center for the Storm.

James Wood bats at the Peoria Sposrts Complex in Spring Training 2022

James Wood works during spring training in Peoria. (Photo: Jerry Espinoza)

We caught up with James, 19, for a brief conversation after a Spring Training intra-squad game yesterday.

You had a great year in the Arizona Complex League.  What made you so successful? 

James Wood: I was just going out there and having fun.  It was a great environment, really just had a good time.

We were speculating that just getting done with the draft and figuring out whether you would get started professionally or go to Mississippi State had to be a weight off of your shoulders, and it may have been fun to just get back to baseball.

James Wood: Yes, for sure that was a big part of it. Just the overall stress of the draft and getting done with it was nice.

Baseball America had a report about some changes you made to your swing. Were you intentional about getting more up-and-down in your setup?

James Wood: I widened out a little bit, but there weren’t a whole lot of adjustments.  It was more on the mental side of trusting that the work that I put in would pay off in the games.

In high school, you were a very good basketball player as well as in baseball.  Your Dad played basketball at the University of Richmond and was a pro overseas for many years. How did you end up with baseball?

James Wood: I just loved baseball more. I’ve always really enjoyed playing it and it never seemed like work to me.  Although that doesn’t mean that I don’t have to put in the work or practice to get where I want to go.  

It seems like you have a part of you that kind of goes your own way.  You have this basketball background, and you are good at it – but choose baseball.

You are 6-foot-7, but you aren’t playing first base or are really in the corners, but you are roaming center field. You seem to enjoy surprising people?

James Wood:  [laughs] – Yeah, I get that a lot.  I will see people in the elevator and they always want to know how tall I am and if I play basketball.   So it’s kind of fun.

How did you get to be a left-handed hitter?

James Wood:  I honestly don’t know.  I want to say it’s because I loved watching Barry Bonds as a kid  But honestly, I think it’s just how I ended up picking up the bat.

Posted by John Conniff

John grew up in Poway and has written for MadFriars since 2004. He has written articles for Baseball America, FoxSports San Diego, the El Paso Times, San Antonio Express-News, Amarillo Globe-News, Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette and Pacific Daily News in addition to appearing on numerous radio programs and podcasts. He can also break down the best places to eat for all five of the affiliates. There is no best place to eat in Peoria, Arizona.


  1. So glad James is a Padre! Very excited to see him progress in our system. Go get ‘em James! Smack that ball. Go Pads! Great article!


    1. Thanks, we only had around 10 minutes. We will have a much longer and better article once he gets to Lake Elsinore. john


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