Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Braves Knock on Wood

Back on June 18th, following just six big league appearances out of the bullpen, the Braves saw fit to give left-handed prospect Alex Wood his first start in the Majors. The young southpaw struggled with command throwing just 38 of his 73 pitches for strikes and lasting only three innings in the first game of a double dip against the Mets. However, he did show some of the form that earned the call-up received just three weeks earlier by striking out five and holding New York to one earned on just two hits that afternoon. After the one start and nine more outings in relief, Wood was optioned to AAA Gwinnett on July 13 in order to be "stretched out" for rotation depth down the stretch.

Wood was drafted by the Braves in the second round of the 2012 draft out of the University of Georgia. Since then, the 22 year old has put up a 9-5 record with a 1.73 ERA over three minor league levels and been ranked the franchise's #5 prospect according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. Add to those numbers a .99 WHIP and an outstanding K/9 of 8.97, it is easy to understand the front office turning to him so quickly when there was suddenly a lack of bullpen arms in Atlanta.

The Charlotte native largely delivered on his promise during his first go around in the bigs. Wood posted a strong 2.45 ERA with 26 strikeouts and only 16 hits allowed over 22 innings before being sent down. Now that veteran starter Paul Maholm has been placed on the disabled, those anticipating Wood's return to the Major League team will not be waiting very long. The lanky fireballer will be bringing his mid-90s four-seamer back to the mound on July 25th for yet another start versus the Mets. Given the confusion surrounding the Braves' pitching staff, he could very well be up for the long haul this time.

His long term standing with the big league team is in question beyond Thursday's start but do not let that fact scare you off. With Maholm's struggles before the injury combined with a likely innings cap for Julio Teheran and uncertainty over Kris Medlen's rotation spot, there is reason to believe Wood will stay with Atlanta for the remainder of the season.

For fantasy managers in need of pitching, this provides an easy to acquire option to help solve that issue. Wood has already displayed the talent level to be at minimum a high K rate, steady reliever. If he is able to maintain that same form as a starter, all that grab him now will be ahead of the curve. Waiting much longer could end up being very costly.

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