Throughout the minor league season, I will be writing about a prospect every Monday who has reached the AA level or higher that could be on your fantasy roster by season's end, and what you should know about them. Today's prospect is looking more and more like a quick mover in the Braves' system, left-hander Alex Wood.
Weight: 215 lbs.
On 40-Man Roster: No
Age as of 4/29/13: 22
Wood went undrafted out of high school, and attended the University of Georgia. He appeared in just one game as a freshman, at the end of the season after rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He was the #1 starter for the Bulldogs in 2011, making 15 starts, striking out 79 and walking 25 in 102 innings pitched. In his sophomore year, Wood went 7-3 with a 2.73 ERA, 100 strikeouts, and 21 walks in 102 innings pitched. He was drafted by the Braves in the 2nd round, and signed for a bonus of $700,000.
The Braves sent him to Low-A Rome after signing, where he made 13 starts, threw 52 innings, struck out 52, walked 14 and allowed 39 hits. The number that stood out was the ground ball rate, an excellent 2.09 for the season. Coming into the season, Baseball America ranked Wood as the #7 prospect in the Braves system, and he was sent to AA to start this year. He has 31 strikeouts against 5 walks, an ERA of 0.67, and a groundball ratio of 1.72 through 27 innings pitched.
The Scouting Report - Scouting reports are gathered from other internet sources and written reports, unless otherwise noted.
The thing that first stands out about Wood is his unique delivery (You can see an example from Youtube via Chris Blessing), although it appears after watching his start on the 17th that he is extremely deceptive as a result of it. The initial concern when you see a pitcher with an odd delivery is that he won't be able to repeat it on a consistent basis, but Wood seems to be able to do so on a consistent basis. In terms of repertoire, Wood features a fastball which sits in the low 90s, an above-average changeup, and while he throws a breaking ball, it was not considered good enough to use in the Majors prior to the start of the season. Wood now features a knuckle-curve, which he learned while in Major League camp during Spring Training, and it sounds like it is working pretty well so far.
What's Keeping Him From Contributing Now?
For me, it's only 27 innings at AA so far with the new breaking ball, and I want to see him keep the performance going (you know, with the expected regression of ERA back) over a majority of the season. Add in that he needs to keep throwing innings and building up his endurance as well, and he seems unlikely to be up this season except maybe as a bullpen arm later in the year. The Braves don't have to add him to the 40-man roster for another two seasons, so there isn't a roster incentive to add him unless they believe he can help them down the stretch.
What Could He Do For Fantasy Owners Once He Gets There?
If the gains from adding a good breaking ball hold true, you are now looking at a left handed starting pitcher who would have three pitches which grade out as at least average or better (two plus), who has a tendency to get groundballs at a great rate. He has shown a solid strikeout rate so far, which has carried over from his debut season even before he added the knuckle-cuve. You could be looking at a pitcher who slots in the top 50 of starting pitchers once he arrives.
When Could He Arrive?
Wood seems likely to spend the entirety of 2013 at the AA level, and with more pitching prospects in the system at the higher levels, he seems most likely to get a shot sometime late in the 2014 season or early in the 2015 season. We could possibly see him as a late season call up to give them another option in the bullpen, but as of now even that seems a bit unlikely given the relievers there currently.
For more on Wood and the Braves, check out SBNation's Talking Chop.
You can follow me on Twitter @jasonsbaseball.