Simeon Woods Richardson Channels Satchel Paige

Simeon Woods Richardson has big-time potential. Blessed with an impressive combination of power, finesse, and command, the 6-foot-3, 222-pound right-hander is No. 3 on our Toronto Blue Jays Top Prospects list, and No. 72 on our 2021 Top 100 Prospects list. Just 20 years old, Woods Richardson fashions himself — stylistically speaking — as a modern-day Satchel Paige.

More on that later.

Born and raised in Sugar Land, Texas, Woods Richardson was taken 48th-overall in the 2018 draft by the New York Mets, only to be traded a year later, along with Anthony Kay, to the Blue Jays in exchange for Marcus Stroman. The approach he brought to Toronto was one of a burgeoning craftsman. I learned as much when I asked — in a twist on a question I often ask hitters — if he views pitching as more of an art or a science.

“Both,” responded Woods Richardson. “With pitching you need some feel, and then you have the analytics of it. It’s, ‘Okay, you’re doing this and you’re doing that, you have this break and you have that break.’ So I think it’s a mesh of both worlds. But I like the art side of pitching, where you’re hitting a spot three, four times in a row. You’re keeping them off balance. That’s what I like.”

A self-described visual learner, Woods Richardson prefers video over number-crunching, although he does pay heed to the spin efficiency of his four-seamer — an impressive 98% that he aspires to improve. Delivered at 92-94 mph, it’s one of five pitches in his arsenal. He also throws a two-seamer, a curveball, a slider, and a circle changeup, the last of which he’s diligently honed. ”Shaky” when he broke into pro ball, it’s now considered by many to be his best weapon.

“The way I throw it… I emphasize bringing my circle to the ground,” Woods Richardson said of his change-of-pace. “I’m emphasizing downhill motion. If you can do that, it will normally play out. Same arm action — staying believable with it — but just throwing that circle to the ground, and getting that pronation.”

Eric Longenhagen described the righty’s changeup as having “screwball action,” although there are times where the movement profile is more drop than fade. That’s by design. Woods Richardson thrives on variation, and that goes for velocity and shape alike.

“I like to differ speeds and keep people off balance,” the righty explained. “That’s the way I like to pitch. I’m manipulating the ball when I need to. I like to throw every pitch in every situation, and I’m really comfortable throwing every pitch in every situation. I just trust everything.”

As such, he sees himself as somewhat of a power pitcher. As much as Woods Richardson likes to mix and match, he also likes to attack.

“I’m a bulldog, man,” Woods Richardson told me. “I can go out there and be a bulldog, but sometimes I can finesse around you, too. So I think I give the best of both worlds. I’ve got the bulldog mentality where I’m a go-getter, an attacker — hey, I’m coming right at you — and then sometimes I like to methodically just pitch.”

And he truly loves to pitch. The up-and-coming hurler has an engaging personality, and it shone ever so brightly when he addressed his baseball roots.

“I was so amazed by pitching when I first started,” Woods Richardson recalled. “My first time pitching, I just loved it. But the way my command started going, the way I started to actually pinpoint stuff… I was a little kid, man, I would go out to my grandmother’s house. She had like acres of trees, and I’d get these old grapefruits and oranges, and I’d just start hitting trees. I think that’s where I really got my accuracy and command.”

The fruit-tossing has translated to the mound. In 124 professional innings, the native Texan has walked just 28 batters, an average of 2.0 per nine innings. Moreover, he’s missed his fair share of bats. With the caveat that he’s yet to see game action above High-A, his K/9 is a fruitful 11.0.

In terms of pace, Woods Richardson is a right-handed Mark Buehrle. He works fast, and he does so with an exuberance akin to that of a pitcher with whom his career will be forever intertwined.

“I would watch Marcus Stroman, when I was in high school,” said Woods Richardson. “I watched the way he played the game. We have the same energy on the mound — we’re both electric guys who like to move around and get excited — and I saw that in myself when I would watch his game. I kind of took that from him.”

Like Stroman, Woods Richardson is African American. The relative paucity of Black pitchers throughout MLB history isn’t lost on the young Blue Jays’ prospect.

“It is something that’s on my mind,” acknowledged Woods Richardson. “I know there’s not a lot of us, and there needs to be more of us. Not a lot of African Americans pitch, or even play baseball, because we don’t have the funds for it, or it’s just something we don’t do — we go towards basketball or football. But there needs to be more of us, man. It’s an enjoyment. I love it. And I’m one of the only African-American pitchers right now, so yes, I do think about it.”

Growing up, Woods Richardson wore No. 44 in honor of Hank Aaron. Knowing that, I asked how familiar he is with Satchel Paige’s legendary career.

“He was another reason,” Woods Richardson replied. “The way people would talk about him commanding a fastball, about commanding a pitch. He could get it anywhere he wanted to. I took that. I was like, ‘I want that. I want to be that guy who can throw anything he wants, and it’s going to be exactly where he says it’s going to be.’ I took that mentality and kind of ran with it.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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3 years ago

I was hoping the Pirates acquired him if they dealt Musgrove to the Jays in the offseason. Seems like a solid young man. Fruit throwing… who knew?