Jake Woodford has the potential to be an innings eater for the St. Louis Cardinals and the team made the right choice sending him down to reset first.
The St. Louis Cardinals are taking a temporary step back to hopefully get a better return on investment down the line when it comes to their young starter, Jake Woodford.
After debuting during the shuffles and hurried 2020 season, the first-round pick from the 2015 draft didn’t have the best first season. Over 12 games (21.0 innings), Woodford gave up 13 earned runs on seven home runs, good for a 5.57 ERA. The majority of Woodford’s outings in 2020 came when the righty was used as a piggyback behind other starters, sometimes without warning. It’s not completely surprising that a player who had been a starter for the vast majority of his professional career all of a sudden had struggles in a long reliever role.
In 2021, Woodford fell right back into the same spot to start the year. Pitching in 17 games this year, Woodford has a 4.62 ERA in 25.1 innings. This doesn’t look good, but again it’s important to remember how Woodford is being used.
Of his 17 appearances, six have come entering in the fourth inning or earlier. 10 have been multi-inning appearances and nine appearances have begun with runners on base. That is setting up a 24-year-old sophomore who never got his feet set in his rookie year for failure.
Now, Woodford is in the long reliever role because he isn’t viewed as a top-end starter. However, could he be a solid 4th starter? Sure. Could the Cardinals use a solid 4th starter right now in their rotation? Absolutely.
Thankfully for Woodford’s future, the Cardinals are sending him back to AAA to prep for starting games.
There are plenty of good arguments out there that this action won’t change what the Cardinals get out of Woodford, but at this point, it can’t hurt to try.
The other response from this is that Woodford should be trying to do this at the MLB level. While this pessimistic take is easy to hop on board with, it’s hardly realistic. The Cardinals season isn’t “over,” and there is no reason to start throwing in the towel by sending poor Jake Woodford into a position on the biggest stage that he isn’t prepared for.
At AAA Memphis, Woodford can make a few starts and be ready to return in a couple of weeks to eat innings.
In the end, it may not work out, but Woodford has the first-round pedigree and the skill to at least be an innings eater. By letting him go down the Cards are putting their guy in the best place possible to succeed in the role they want him to be in. That’s the respect any player deserves.