When Cal Ripken Jr. made his debut for the Baltimore Orioles a generation ago, the requirements for a shortstop changed forever. No longer would a defensive specialist suffice for the position. Shortstops needed to hit for average and power in addition to showcasing a flawless glove. Fitting those characteristics is Arizona State shortstop Colby Woodmansee who the New York Mets selected in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB Draft.
Surrounded by spring training complexes and organized baseball leagues in his native Arizona, Woodmansee had two primary aspirations; getting an education at Arizona State University and someday playing baseball at the highest level. With the encouragement of his father Doug, Woodmansee pursued both those goals and valued his continued support.
“I pretty much speak with him every day and talk with him after every game. The longer I play baseball he doesn’t try to teach too much now, but he lets me know if he sees something or if I’m struggling. He has been the biggest influence on my baseball career,” Woodmansee said.
At Desert Valley High School, Woodmansee earned four varsity letters and his team’s captaincy. His impact at the school led to recruitment to Arizona State and the opportunity to become a part of its rich baseball legacy. More importantly, Woodmansee focused heavily on his studies and became a four-time scholar baller at the university.
“A scholar baller must maintain a 3.0 GPA each semester. It is a good program for athletes and it is a pretty big accomplishment at ASU and every semester I tried to be one during my time in school,” Woodmansee said.
By his sophomore season, Woodmansee became the starting shortstop for Arizona State and batted .308/.355/.454 with five home runs and 44 runs batted in while playing 58 games. Woodmansee earned All-Pac-12 honors and became the first Sun Devils player to participate in every regular season game since James McDonald in 2013 and the first shortstop to lead the team in RBI since 1975. Woodmansee believes that the school was the idea fit for him and helped prepare him for his future. “I always envisioned myself playing there one day and enjoyed watching
“I always envisioned myself playing there one day and enjoyed watching Deven Marrero. I committed there when I was a junior at Arizona State and it was the best decision I even made.”
Woodmansee’s breakout season in 2015 led to preseason Golden Spikes Award consideration and spent most of the summer working out with the Arizona State training staff in between brief stints with team USA and the Cape Cod League.
The additional training and recovery from an earlier elbow injury allowed Woodmansee to improve his durability and start every game for the second consecutive season. With an added year of experience, Woodmansee improved his walk rate and home run production and reached base safely in his first 20 collegiate games last spring.
Concentrating on college players early in the draft, the Mets took Woodmansee in the fifth round and he made his professional debut in Brooklyn with the Cyclones on June 21, collecting his first two RBIs against the Tri-City ValleyCats.
Woodmansee hit his first home run in Batavia on July 4 and quickly became one of the most consistent hitters on the team, batting .282 with two home runs and a .693 OPS in his first 42 games.
“I’m really happy to be in Brooklyn,” Woodmansee says. “The crowds are nice here and compares favorably to ASU. I always love playing in front of big crowds and I couldn’t imagine a better way to begin my professional career.
Like many recent shortstops to make their way through Minor League Baseball, Woodmansee provides significant value both in the field and at the plate. At 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, he has good size for the position and is able to make most routine plays with average range.
Although some suggest that Woodmansee may have a future at third base, his bat profiles well at shortstop with developing power to his pull field and a quick line drive swing. Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa, who managed in the Detroit Tigers farm system with the Toledo Mud Hens in 1990 compares Woodmansee to Travis Fryman at the age and feels his background at Arizona State makes him a well-rounded player.
“He is a hitting machine. They always pride themselves at Arizona State on having one of the top programs in the country from the days on Bob Horner, Sal Bando, and Rick Monday. This kid reminds me in his physique and the way he swings the bat to a guy that I had in the Detroit system named Travis Fryman. He will be in the heart of our lineup,” Gamboa said.
On August 8, Woodmansee, along with teammates Peter Alonso and Harold Gonzalez earned a selection to the New York-Penn League All-Star Game. The selection was a preseason goal for Woodmansee and caps off a strong showing in his two months in professional baseball.
“Making the All-Star team was something I expected to do and was one of my goals heading into the season. Many players go their entire minor league career and never get a chance to play in one. I texted my mom and dad when I found out and they were really excited for me,” Woodmansee said.