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The Braves have been a bit snake-bit in the rotation this season. First it was Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy that went down. Recently Gavin Floyd joined them on the sidelines. The Braves have gotten an out of nowhere effort from Aaron Harang to help stabilize things with the starting staff, but it's the recent addition of Alex Wood to the rotation that has everyone excited.
2012: A second round draft selection after spending time with the University of Georgia. Wood made 13 starts at Single-A with a dominating 2.22 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 52 Ks in 52.2 innings.
2013: Minor pitched 11 games at Double and Triple-A. Over those 62 innings he struck out 62, walked only 17, had a 1.31 ERA and 0.98 WHIP
2014: Two outings in the minors led to a 1.04 ERA and 1.27 WHIP.
In 26 minor league starts he's gone 9-5 with a 1.68 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 8.9 K/9 and 3.49 K/BB ratio over 123.1 innings.
Wood made 31 appearances last season including 11 starts in 2013. He went 3-3 with a 3.13 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. Alex nearly struck out a batter per inning though with 77 in 77.2 innings. Posted a moderate walk rate at 3.13 per nine and he generated a lot of ground balls (49.1 percent of batted balls).
In 2014 Wood has made it to the hill 19 times and started eight games for the Braves. All told the numbers are eerily similar to his rookie effort: 3.07 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 8.96 K/9. One big improvement to this point – he's dropped a full batter of his walk rate per nine (it's 2.14 this season).
In 19 games as a starting pitcher in the majors Wood has a 6-7 record with a 3.08 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 1.28 WHIP, 8.50 K/9 and 3.19 K/BB ratio.
Minor is a lefty hurler who stands 6'4” and weighs 215 pounds. The thing that really stands out with him is the funky, disjointed and rapid motion he tosses at hitters. Questions about his long-term viability are fair and warranted, but for now his delivery certainly helps him to hide the ball from batters and that's undoubtedly an advantage.
Wood throw his fastball a ton, 61 percent of the time. It's not high level heat, his fastball usually sits in the 90-92 range, but it does get on batters a bit quickly because of the motion he throws at hitters. Wood also mixes in a curve ball (22 percent of the time) and a change up (17 percent of the time). Getting all fancy over at Fangraphs, here is how each pitch grades out versus the league average:
Fastball: 4.8 runs above average
Curve Ball: 1.0 runs above average
Change Up: -4.0 below average
Pretty obvious which pitch needs work. Luckily for him there hasn't been much difference in his work against lefties and righties over his brief career.
vs. left: .271/.330/.350, 3.73 plate appearances per strikeout
vs. right: .248/.309/.369, 4.40 plate appearances per strikeout
The stuff is plenty good enough to get copious amounts of punchouts. As a pro he's been a strikeout per inning arm. Should continue to do that moving forward.
The walks? His 3.13 per nine mark last season was league average. This year he's cut that mark by 50 percent down to 2.14. That's led to an impressive 4.19 K/BB ratio. Wood did walk just 2.6 per nine in the minors so his control is often sharp, but it would be wise to expect a few more free passes moving forward – he's operating at an elite level right now. Certainly helps that his first pitch strike mark for his career is an impressive 64.6 percent. Some perspective for that number. As of this point of the 2014 campaign there are only 14 men in baseball that can match that rate (David Price leads the way at 70.8 percent).
As a minor leaguer Wood brought Ks, few walks and lots of grounders. Wood posted a 55 percent ground ball rate in the minors, and that's an impressive mark that would land him in the top-10 in the majors every single year. The number has regressed a bit in the bigs, but over 145 big league innings the mark is 48 percent. Very impressive. As a result of all the grounders Wood has been able to keep the homers in check. His career HR/9 mark is 0.62 and doesn't figure to go up much unless something drastic happens with his HR/F ratio (8.5 percent). Doesn't seem likely to happen.
Wood is an impressive talent. The outlook for future is bright as long as he can withstand the innings given his funky delivery.
PLAYING TIME CONSIDERATIONS
There are no concerns in terms of the spot that Wood will fill. He will have a pl;ace in the rotation as long as he is healthy and performs. It is worth considering though – will he have a start skipped here or there? In 2013 he threw a total of 139.67 innings. He's at 76 innings right now. Given his work out of the pen this season it would seem the Braves have insulated themselves against IP concerns. Even if he makes 16 starts the ROTW the way and were to average six innings a start, that would equate to 96 innings. Add that to his current total of 76 and we would end up with a mark of 172 total. That's 32 more than last season. That's a reasonable rate of increase for a young arm from year to year.
10 team lg: Should have been dropped when demoted, but now that he's back up he should be on someone's roster, even in a format as shallow as this one.
12 team lg: Should have been drafted and held on to even when demoted unless your staff was dealing with injury and you needed to make a move to shore up the staff. Heck, with all the injuries this season you can't beat yourself up if you dropped Wood to add a healthy player. No team is immune to DL stints. It's such a disaster out there right now.
15 team lg: Should have been drafted and held on to even when demoted.
NL-only: Should have been drafted and held on to even when demoted.