Simeon Woods-Richardson was not expecting a phone call when he was with his family and friends at a local Buffalo Wild Wings on the first night of the 2018 MLB Amateur Player Draft.
The 17-year-old two-way player out of Sugar Land, Texas, was anticipating being selected in the second day of the Draft, when he expected teams such as the Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals to be heavily involved in his selection. Instead, his agent called with the news of the New York Mets’ intention of selecting him in the second-round (48th overall).
Less than two weeks later, Woods-Richardson and the Mets came to an agreement on an overslot bonus of $1.85 million.
The intrigue and athleticism for Woods-Richardson is certainly warranted, as the 6’3″, 210 pound righty features a fastball that has registered as high as 95 miles-per-hour on the radar gun, a big breaking curve, along with a changeup and cutter that he’s added to his repertoire over the last two years. When not on the mound, Woods-Richardson impressed with his right-handed power at the plate, slugging five home runs and posting a .636 on-base percentage in 12 games at third base.
At the beginning of his high school career, Woods-Richardson was an undersized freshman, standing 5’4″ and 120 pounds. A major growth spurt during his sophomore season had him add an additional six inches and 40 pounds to his frame, aiding in his increased velocity on the mound.
While getting drafted, and earlier than expected, was a thrill and moment forever frozen in time for Woods-Richardson, a difficult decision was still looming. He had a commitment to attend the University of Texas, and education was something that his parents always instilled in the Texas native. After much consideration, the decision to begin his professional career in baseball won out.
Assigned to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Mets, Woods-Richardson has been on a throwing program for several weeks, expecting to throw his first bullpen this Sunday. From there he hopes to make his first start within the next few weeks.
I had the privilege of speaking with Woods-Richardson in early July, where we discussed the showcases he attended that saw his draft stock rise, his emotions when he heard he was selected by the Mets, and what he wants to continue working on in his development.
MMO: Who was your favorite team growing up? Who were some of your favorite players?
Simeon: I was born and raised in Houston, so the Astros are one of my favorite teams. Some of my favorite players are Derek Jeter, Marcus Stroman, and Aroldis Chapman. Those are the three main guys that I really love.
MMO: At what age did you start pitching?
Simeon: Around the age of 9 is when I really started pitching.
MMO: I read that going into your sophomore season you had a huge growth spurt that helped accelerate your development.
Simeon: Oh yeah, it was ridiculous! I grew six inches and gained like forty pounds. It all just happened at once.
MMO: And how did that help with your velocity and overall athleticism?
Simeon: It definitely increased (my velocity) but the transition was kind of hard. While working out my velo went up a lot; about 11 miles-per-hour. I was just working out, staying mobile, and working with my trainer.
MMO: Obviously you were heavily scouted in high school. Was there any difficulty for you to perform under the eyes of major league scouts start after start?
Simeon: No it actually felt kind of normal because I love pressure and I like how it makes my game better.
MMO: For fans that don’t know, what pitches do you feature in your repertoire?
Simeon: Fastball, changeup, cutter, and a curveball.
MMO: And what would you consider your best pitch?
Simeon: That’s tough, I love all my pitches, really. I learned the cutter about two years ago and it’s something that’s been an out pitch for me. I like putting people away with my fastball/sinker combination.
MMO: You attended several showcases in 2017 that seemingly helped increase your stock for the 2018 Draft. What was it like getting to compete in each of those showcases, and how did it aid in your overall development?
Simeon: All of them were greatly ran and directed. I played with some great competition and playing against these guys makes your game better. That’s why I believe I performed so well because I wanted to be the big dog, the alpha dude. Among all of these people I wanted to be the one who showed out.
I was at the Area Code (Games), USA Trials, all of that. I did get invited to the Under Armour and Perfect Game (showcases), I just couldn’t go. I had invitations to everything I can think of, but I attended the USA Trials and Area Code, which is probably my best outings ever.
MMO: Talk to me about the moment you heard you were drafted 48th overall. Where were you, who were you with, and what were your emotions like?
Simeon: I was at Buffalo Wild Wings with a lot of guys from my school. I really had no intention of going that day, I was expecting the second day.
I was with some family and friends and we were all just chilling there and a lot of people came, I was surprised. We were just eating wings and relaxing and then I get a phone call literally a minute before I get picked and my agent’s like, “Hey, it’s do or die right now, yes or no?” I looked around like this can’t really be happening and reality just settled in once I saw my name being called.
I was on the phone and then I saw it pop up on TV and everyone was just crying. It’s definitely one of those experiences in my life that I’ll never forget.
MMO: Prior to the Draft, did you have any notion that the Mets had interest in selecting you?
Simeon: We contacted a lot (of teams). I had pre-interest from a bunch of teams in the MLB. I never expected the Mets to pick me there, I thought the Indians, Royals, and the Cardinals would pick me. We were looking at those (teams) and then all of a sudden my agent calls and tells me the Mets want to pick you up. I looked around and saw my family and they said, “Take it, why not?”
MMO: Have you had the chance to talk to anyone in the Mets organization since you’ve signed your contract?
Simeon: I was roommates with Jarred Kelenic. Him being the first-round pick and me the second, they wanted us to stay together. I saw what they were trying to do by keeping us together, like a little pact.
But everything was great, and just talking to and picking everyone’s brain was pretty cool to see what they’ve been through and how they got here.
MMO: You were committed to attend the University of Texas, was the decision to forgo college difficult for you?
Simeon: It definitely was because I was raised in a family where education comes first no matter what. Both of my parents were pushing education and I had a deal with them (Texas), a set deal for a full-ride scholarship.
Making a decision of forgoing (college) was definitely hard but I think I made the right decision.
MMO: You were assigned to the Gulf Coast League Mets upon completing your contract. Have the Mets laid out a plan for you for the rest of the season?
Simeon: I’ve been on a throwing program for the last twenty-one days and I throw my first bullpen on Sunday. So I’m estimating that my first outing on the mound will happen within the next two weeks.
MMO: What are some aspects of your game you want to continue to improve upon?
Simeon: Just pounding the strike zone and being consistent with all of my pitches. Even though I trust them I still need to be consistent and have faith to throw them for a strike every single time.
So just pounding the strike zone, focusing on throwing strikes and missing the barrel, and working fast is all I need to focus on.
MMO: Thanks for your time, Simeon. Best of luck to you in your career.
Simeon: Thank you, thank you.
Follow Simeon Woods-Richardson on Twitter, @Simeon_Woods