Should the St. Louis Cardinals call up Jake Woodford?
The St. Louis Cardinals continuing weakness seems to be in the rotation. Is it time to look for relief in AAA Memphis? Jake Woodford is an interesting option.
The St. Louis Cardinals entered their series with the Pittsburgh Pirates reeling after losing their last six of seven games. Although the hitting has hit a rut and the defense has looked shaky during this streak, the back-end of the rotation is still my primary concern.
I recently did a trade piece which focused on two arms that could be available from the Toronto Blue Jays, but more immediate help could be available in AAA Memphis. Most of the attention has been focused on promoting John Gant from the Bullpen to the Rotation, but a call up of Austin Gomber, Ryan Helsley, or Daniel Ponce de Leon would be another option.
Even though I think Gomber, Helsley, and Ponce De Leon are deserving for the call-up, Jake Woodford should also get consideration. Woodford, currently leads the Redbirds rotation in ERA (2.04), WHIP (1.11), and is second in innings pitched (39.2).
Let’s take a closer look at the 22-year-old right-handed Jake Woodford.
A former First Round Draft Pick
Jake Woodford was drafted in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals as the 39th player selected. The Florida native was assigned to the Gulf Coast Cardinals and pitched 26 innings in 2015, recording a 2.39 ERA.
He was promoted to the Low A Peoria Chiefs in 2016, throwing 108 innings with a 3.31 ERA, and a 5-5 record, in 21 games as a starter. He was promoted to HIgh A Palm Beach Cardinals in 2017, pitching 119 innings, recording a 7-6 record, and earning a 3.10 ERA in 23 games.
Woodford earned a non-roster invite to the Cardinals 2018 Spring Training. From there, he was assigned to AA Springfield, where he started 16 games, and recorded a 5.22 ERA, with a 3-8 record, in 81 innings. In spite of his high ERA, Woodford earned a promotion to AAA Memphis during the season. In 12 games at Memphis, he had a 5-5 record and a 4.50 ERA in 64 innings.
Jake Woodford’s pitching profile
Woodford has a four-pitch repertoire, a four seam and two seam fastballs, a changeup, and a slider. His four-seamer tops out at 94 mph, his changeup is considered a solid pitch, and his slider is inconsistent, but improving. Woodford’s real plus pitch at this stage in his career is his two-seamer, which is a sinker that he controls very well.
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According to Rick Hummel, Andrew Knizner, who caught most of his 28 starts last year, says his four-seamer is faster than it looks, coming in at 96-97 mph. Knizner says Woodford has worked on his velocity on his fastball and now throws it more than his sinker.
Woodford impressed the likes of Chris Carpenter and Mike Shildt with his preparation and work ethic during Spring Training. Hummel reported Shildt called Woodford the most prepared prospect coming through the Minor League system.
The results have reflected so far, in a drop in ERA to 2.04 in 2019 from 4.90 in 2018. His K/9 has also improved to 8.2 in 2019 vs 6.3 in 2018.
If the St. Louis Cardinals decide to make changes in the rotation, they should first knock on the door of Memphis and test the depth of their Minor League system. Only then can they determine if they will need to go outside the organization for help.
So, to return to the question, should the Cardinals call up Jake Woodford? Certainly, Austin Gomber Ryan Helsley and Daniel Ponce de Leon hold the Major League experience that Woodford doesn’t yet have on his resume. Additionally, Gomber and Ponce De Leon have started in the Major Leagues. Gomber has 11 starts under his belt, while Ponce de Leon has five starts in St. Louis.
Therefore the case can be made they should be first to hop on the bus to St. Louis.
Matt Graves, Redbird Rants co-editor, recently put up a piece on three prospects he expects to debut this year. One of those is Jake Woodford and we agree on this. But where we disagree is Matt thinks Woodford should not debut until possibly September, and then out of the bullpen. I, however, believe he should make his Major League debut sooner and preferably as a starter.
At some point, you have to find out if Woodford can help you this year. Promoting him and giving him a start is the only way to find out. The sooner the better as far as I’m concerned.
It should be pointed out, Woodford isn’t currently on the 40-man roster. Nevertheless, I believe some moves on the roster will be coming soon. I would like to see Jake Woodford added to the 40-man roster and called up to make his first Major League start. So the answer is yes, the Cardinals should call up Jake Woodford.