The Royals announced today that they’ve sent a player to be named later or cash to the Rays in exchange for unrestricted rights to Rule 5 pick Stephen Woods Jr. Such moves are only possible once a player first goes unclaimed on outright waivers. Normally, a Rule 5 pick is then offered back to his original club, but the Royals worked out a trade to keep Woods in the organization — and because he’s already cleared waivers, the right-hander won’t require a spot on the 40-man roster.
Woods, 25, missed the entire 2018 season due to shoulder surgery but returned in 2019 to throw 86 1/3 frames of 1.88 ERA ball with 8.2 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a 53.4 percent ground-ball rate in Class-A Advanced. Pitching the majority of last season at age 24, Woods was a bit old for the level, but the results were obviously quite encouraging for a pitcher coming back from a major surgical procedure. The Kansas City organization was clearly enamored of the former eighth-round pick’s upside and will now be able to hang onto him for the foreseeable future.
Woods has a history of control struggles, but he’s also missed plenty of bats in both his NCAA and professional career. His velocity was down a bit from its previous levels in 2019, FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen noted at the time of the Rule 5 Draft, but Woods also posted the lowest walk rate of his career in ’19.