Is Wood's path to the majors in left field?

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – James Wood has impressed in all facets so far in spring training.

He’s 8-for-16 at the plate with three home runs, five RBIs, six walks, only three strikeouts and one stolen base in eight Grapefruit League games. He’s posting a .636 on-base percentage and 1.699 OPS.

In the field, he’s played solid defense over his 24 innings in right field and eight in center.

Before yesterday’s rainout against a Marlins split-squad, he was scheduled to hit second and play left field for the first time since 2022, a new avenue that could be his path to the major leagues.

Wood didn’t appear in left field at all last year, playing 67 games in center field and 46 in right field between High-A Wilmington and Double-A Harrisburg. He played exclusively center when he arrived at Single-A Fredericksburg after the Juan Soto blockbuster trade in 2022. He did, however, play 34 innings over four games in left earlier that year between the Padres’ Rookie-level Arizona Complex League and Single-A affiliates, the only time he’s played the position in his first three professional seasons.

“I want him to play everywhere,” manager Davey Martinez said, “so he's gonna get an opportunity to play all three. You never know what our needs are. These guys are all in. I talked to all of them before camp even started and they're all taking their work in all three outfield positions. But he looks good out there. Anywhere we've put him, he's looked good.”

Indeed, throughout camp – and even previously while they were still new to the organization and playing in the minors – the Nats have touted the fact that their group of young outfielders of Wood, Dylan Crews and Robert Hassell III can play all three outfield positions.

To date, Hassell has played all three, while Crews has played five games in center and one in right.

Looking at the roster, the easiest path to the majors for any of them, but specifically Wood, may be in left field.

Lane Thomas established himself as the Nats’ primary right fielder last year. Victor Robles is getting one last shot to make an impact in center, where he’s twice been a Gold Glove Award finalist. Jacob Young played a strong center field to close out last season and is battling Robles for that position and others for the fourth outfielder spot on the Opening Day roster.

So who’s left in left?

Joey Gallo, along with his two Gold Gloves in right field, was signed to potentially take the majority of reps in left field while also splitting time at first base and as the designated hitter. But he’s made a majority of his reps in practice and all of his game appearances at first.

Stone Garrett, still recovering from his broken leg, has yet to appear in a game this spring. Alex Call is still trying to prove he can be an everyday major leaguer. And Jesse Winker is attempting to make the team on a minor league deal.

None of those outfielders except for Thomas should block any of the prospects from the major leagues when club officials determine they’re ready for The Show.

Once Wood gets more opportunities to play in left and if his offensive production continues to show he’s ready, is that the path to the majors for the primarily right fielder?

“We can do other things to get him where we feel he's best,” Martinez said. “But the good news is, you look at Jacob Young, Crewsy, Hassell, Wood, all those guys could play all three. And that's nice. I know Vic could play all three as well. But they all know that, hey, at any given moment, you could play any position out there, so just be ready.”

It will be interesting to see where Wood plays in the outfield while he's still in big league camp and when he starts the season, wherever that may be.

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