Brandon Wood’s a Free Man

For three years now, Brandon Wood has whacked AAA pitching and waited for an opening at the major league level. With Chone Figgins set to join the Mariners , it appears that Wood finally has a clean shot at winning a job with the Angels.

L.A.’s first-round pick in the 2003 amateur draft, Wood posted promising numbers as a teenager in Rookie Ball and in the Low-A Midwest League. But the 6-3 righty batter really burst onto the prospect scene in 2005, scorching the High-A California League.

The Cal League is known for offensive outbursts, but Wood’s .321/.383/.672 line at Rancho Cucamonga was still eye-popping. He clubbed 43 home runs and posted a .351 ISO, while playing shortstop, no less.

Wood walked in 8.1 percent of his PA, while punching out at a moderate 21.5% clip. Ranking Wood the best prospect in L.A.’s system, Baseball America predicted he would “develop into a perennial all-star infielder at either shortstop or third base.”

Promoted to the AA Texas League in 2006, Wood continued to crush while sticking at shortstop. He authored a .276/.355/.552 triple-slash in 552 PA. Wood’s whiff rate spiked (32.9 K%), though his secondary skills remained elite. He posted a 10.7 BB%, with a .276 ISO.

Since then, Wood has pulverized the Pacific Coast League:

Wood’s AAA numbers, 2007-2009

2007: .272/.338/.497, .224 ISO, 9.3 BB%, 27.5 K%
2008: .296/.375/.595, .299 ISO, 10.2 BB%, 26.3 K%
2009: .293/.353/.557, .264 ISO, 8.5 BB%, 20.7 K%

Wood has oscillated between shortstop and third base in AAA, splitting his time between the positions almost evenly in 2009.

In 1,383 career PA with Salt Lake, Wood owns a .287/.354/.547 line. Salt Lake is another excellent hitting environment. While I can’t find park factors for the 2009 season, this Baseball Think Factory thread shows that Spring Mobile Ballpark (home of the Bees) increased run scoring by six percent and home runs by seven percent compared to a neutral ball park from 2006-2008.

Here are Wood’s Major League Equivalent (MLE) lines from ’07 to ’09, courtesy of Minor League Splits:

2007: .210/.263/.370
2008: .235/.299/.446
2009: .235/.283/.432

Penalizing Wood for hefty punch out rates and the high-octane hitting environment of Salt Lake, those MLE’s don’t paint an especially pretty picture.

From 2007 to 2009, Wood’s playing time with the Angels could best be described as scattered. In 236 trips to the plate, he has batted just .192/.222/.313. He has walked in 3% of his PA, while striking out 33 percent. Wood’s outside-swing percentage is near 37 percent (25% MLB average), with a 68.5% contact rate (80-81% MLB average).

Those numbers are ugly. But let’s not bury the guy for a couple hundred bad PA’s split over a three-year period. Now that third base appears to be his for the taking, what can Wood provide fantasy owners in 2010?

Sean Smith’s CHONE projects a .242/.304/.434 line next season, which equates to a WOBA of about .319. The fans are a bit more optimistic, envisioning a .257/.315/.450 performance (.331 wOBA). Per Baseball Prospectus, Wood’s 2009 line in AAA translates to a .249/.308/.479 MLB triple-slash (.336 wOBA). For comparison, the average MLB third baseman hit .265/.335/.421 in 2009 (.332 wOBA).

Turning 25 in March, Wood doesn’t as a major league star any more. His low contact rate and average plate discipline make it difficult to envision an OBP above the big league average (.333 in 2009).

But don’t write him off as a bust, either. Wood possesses ample pop, and he’s not a total hacker at the plate. Baseball Prospectus’ peak translation for Wood (which attempts to forecast a player’s top performance level in the majors) is .256/.319/.513 (.354 wOBA).

Wood’s star no longer shines brilliantly. However, he’s still capable of being a solid starter in the majors. That may be disappointing to those who hoped for a franchise player, but Wood is worth targeting in A.L.-only and keeper leagues.




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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

5 Responses to “Brandon Wood’s a Free Man”

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  1. Bob says:

    Speaking of BP, their own Kevin Goldstein recently said Wood still has star potential. And for what it’s worth… from a recent Angels.com mailbag with their beat writer… “One of the Angels players who went through the farm system with him assured me that “Woody will blow up” if he ever gets the security of a full-time job.”

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    • Some people need the assurance of an everyday job to not press. In Wood’s defense, every time he’s gone to Anaheim, he’s never been guaranteed a certain amount of playing time. Maybe this will keep him from pressing.

      (Even though I do love my statistical analyses, there are some things that do affect performance that aren’t quantifiable. I am of the belief that stress can affect performance in a positive or negative way. That’s right, Fangraphs, I believe in Clutch.)

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  2. CircleChange11 says:

    Maybe he breaks out with a “Ryan Ludwick Year” in the nearish future … maybe he doesn’t. When you guys say that he’s “capable of being a solid starter” and things of that nature, the situation all hinges around how we view the word “capable”.

    I always liked Wood and could never figure out why he didn’t “do better” at the MLB. But, I think you guys are being VERY optomistic. Rookies, particularly, are under a tremendous amount of pressure. Wood, at 25, is just going to experience more and more pressure, and he is no longer a prospect, and every time in the majors could be his “last audition”.

    IMO, Wood’s going to leave us scratching our heads.

    Reminds me of Luis Medina … a guy I noticed when I was a high school soph. It was my introduction to “inflated offense out west”.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=medina002lui

    The problem with some of these minor league sluggers is that the only way you can stay in MLB while K’ing a 3rd of the time is to hit with an OPS that starts with an “8″. You can’t K 1/3′rd of the time and have an OPS that starts with a “5″. I suppose one could say he “was rushed” to be the SS at 22. But his last 4 AAA seasons are darn consistent, indicating that is likely his “true” AAA performance. What we have no idea of, is whether he can hit MLB pitchers or not. So far, he’s completely one sided against him.

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