Last year at this time Simeon Woods Richardson was preparing for his senior season at Kempner High School.
This year he is at the New York Mets’ spring training camp. After winning the District 20 6A Most Valuable Player award last year, Woods Richardson was drafted 48th overall by the Mets. He was the 12th pitcher drafted.
“Going through my senior year, I knew I was a draft prospect, but I didn’t know what round I might be drafted. A lot of teams visited me my senior year. I was expecting to be drafted in the third to fifth rounds. On draft day it was pretty unbelievable,” Woods Richardson said.
The Mets assigned him to their Gulf Coast League team where he pitched in five games. He threw 11.1 innings, gave up nine hits and no earned runs. He also struck out 15 while walking only four batters.
“At the Gulf Coast League, I was just trying to stay humble, do the best I could do and be myself. Everyone back home was telling me to just stay within yourself and don’t try to over-do it. Just play my game,” Woods Richardson said.
Based on his Gulf Coast performance, Woods Richardson was promoted to Kingsport in the Rookie Appalachian League. He started two games, pitching six innings and giving up six hits and three earned runs. He also struck out 11 batters while not giving up any walks.
“Striking out 11 with no walks, that was pretty good,” Woods Richardson admitted.
During his end of the season meeting, the Mets told him to work on his mechanics and his conditioning. They plan on sending him to Class A Columbia to begin this season.
“They want me to just work on my mechanics, just clean up a few things that were bothering them. I tended to get a little sloppy with the mechanics when I got tired. That and eating right and working out to get stronger, faster and bigger for the new season,” Woods Richardson said.
This spring, Woods Richardson has been working out at Kempner several times a week.
“Simeon has been throwing live batting practice to our hitters this spring, which they really don’t like,” Kempner baseball coach Eric Folkerts said.
Folkerts is in his first year as head coach at Kempner, but he was Woods Richardson’s pitching coach the last four years.
When asked what makes Woods Richardson better than others, Folkerts said, “His work ethic. He really puts in the time. I had to stop him from time to time because he was overdoing it. He throws all of the time. He wants to be the best and wants to perfect his craft. I think the Mets have realized what they have in Simeon. They have invited him to go to spring training early, and I think they have figured out what kind of gift they have in him.”
Woods Richardson has always had a great fastball and slider, but he has been working on his change-up this offseason.
“My fastball and my slider are my strike out pitches. I have been working on my change-up this spring, so I will be comfortable throwing it for an out in a tough situation,” Woods Richardson said.
“His slider is just out of this world. His fingers are extremely long and its insane how much leverage he gets when he throws the fastball and curve. When he was growing up, his spin rate was the highest in his age group for most years. He gets a tremendous amount of torque out of his tall body,” Folkerts said.
If Woods Richardson gets off to a good start, he may be elevated to advanced Class A at St. Lucie in the latter part of the season.
“My goal for this year is to have command of all of my pitches, so I have the confidence to throw all three of them at any time. I also need to get guys out with out getting into high pitch counts. I need to be more efficient,” Woods Richardson said.
The Columbia Fireflies open their season on April 4 against the Charleston RiverDogs.