You may or may not know this, but I’m a Braves fan. However, I’m no prospect guru and am typically very unfamiliar with every club’s farm system. Unless a player is a top prospect heavily hyped everywhere, I probably never heard of him. So it should be no surprise to learn that when Alex Wood made his debut in Atlanta, I had no idea who he was. But now I do. And I’m excited.
Maybe I could be forgiven for my lack of awareness of Wood’s existence. He had thrown just 114.2 professional innings before his promotion to the bigs, though his performance was rather impressive. Perhaps most interesting about Wood though is not necessarily his skill set, but his delivery. Since I’m sadly incapable of creating my own GIF, I have copied the one Carson Cistulli included in a Daily Notes post back in mid-August. This is Wood throwing his changeup.
That’s some funky stuff going on. I’m not usually a fan of pitchers who rely on deception to succeed, but luckily Wood doesn’t appear to require it. He has shown pretty good strikeout ability, punching out about 25% of batters at both Single-A and Double-A, and carrying that over to the Majors with a nearly 24% strikeout rate. Although his swinging and foul strike rates were about league average, he generated a higher rate of looking strikes.
That changeup depicted above is fantastic, inducing a SwStk% of almost 19% and even getting ground balls too at about a 51% clip. Typically, the changeup will either be a swing and miss pitch that racks up the strikeouts or a more pitch-to-contact type that induces grounders. To possess one that does both is rare, but all kinds of cool.
Wood has also displayed excellent control in the minors, but while his Major League walk rate was merely average, he did throw first pitch strikes at an above average rate. So combine strong strikeout ability with good control and a ground ball tilt and you have yourself the holy skills trifecta and an intriguing young arm.
One question is how many innings he is capable of throwing next year. He only pitched 139.2 frames in 2013, so you have to figure a cap of around 175, which will limit his fantasy upside. In addition, at some point the recently signed Gavin Floyd will return from Tommy John surgery, but he shouldn’t be expected back until some point in the second half. With injuries, poor performance or any number of issues potentially affecting the team’s rotation, Wood could easily be locked into a rotation spot by the time Floyd is back, so I wouldn’t be nervous that Wood could be banished to the bullpen, assuming he’s pitching well.
Though how he gets there is completely opposite, Wood’s overall skill set doesn’t look that much different than that of Andrew Cashner‘s. Of course, Wood will come a lot cheaper, but has real potential to earn equal, if not greater, fantasy value.