CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Geniu... (08/06)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Future Shock: The Mids... (08/01)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Future Shock: Consider... (08/08)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: The Be... (08/06)

August 6, 2012

Future Shock

Monday Morning Ten Pack, Austin Wood Edition

by Kevin Goldstein

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Austin Wood, RHP, Angels (Low-A Cedar Rapids)
It's 1:45 am and I have to write a Ten Pack, but I can't think about anyone but Austin Wood, who I saw pitch a little more than twelve hours ago at Kane County. I flipped between the Cubs and the White Sox games on the radio while driving home from the ballpark, but I still thought about Austin Wood. I made a lovely pasta dish from Amateur Gourmet with tomatoes from our garden but, while doing so, I thought about Austin Wood. I was able to at least move it to the back of my mind during the radio show I do on Sunday nights, but once that was over, there he was . . . Austin Wood. If I were a professional who was good at my job, I'd write your standard comment here about how Wood earned some notice early in the year with ten strikeouts in his first start of the year, and then five no-hit innings his second time out, but how he's been inconsistent ever since and has a 4.12 ERA, and how on Sunday he allowed just one run over seven innings while striking out six and blah blah blah. I'd write about his much-traveled amateur career and his stuff and his age and all that, and then I'd write nine more comments about nine other guys. But I can't think about nine other guys.

Austin Wood, RHP, Angels (Low-A Cedar Rapids)
Wood ranged from awful to amazing not only from inning-to-inning, but from batter-to-batter and pitch-to-pitch. We're talking about a guy who started his day by walking the first two batters, about a guy who started his day with six straight fastballs out of the zone. 94-96 mph fastballs mind you, but out of the zone nonetheless and up or out at that. Those were also the only two walks he gave up in the game, as he was an efficient strike throwing machine after that, although the command was never ideal. He actually threw harder as the game went on, including ending his day with 98 mph heat that moved for his final strikeout. He's walked more than five batters per nine innings this year, an ugly rate, but it's under three in his last six starts. I feel like I saw both of those guys in the same day.

Austin Wood, RHP, Angels (Low-A Cedar Rapids)
The fact that he's a big guy who throws hard is nothing new, and as far as other pitches go, they can be just as confusing. He throws a change and some kind of hybrid breaking ball, both in the low 80s. Neither is good. Hell, neither is average, but every once in a while he'd drop a changeup in to the strike zone and it would be crisp, and it would freeze a batter. And when I say once in a while, I mean he did this maybe three times total during his seven frames. So part of you wants to say he doesn't have secondary pitches, and the other part is saying, no, he does have them. We've seen them. We don't see them enough, but they are there, and that's better than never seeing them at all.

Austin Wood, RHP, Angels (Low-A Cedar Rapids)
But how often are they seen? And how often does he find the strike zone with his fastball, even? He's made 23 starts for the Kernels this year, and he's allowed one or zero earned runs in 11 of them. Nearly half of the time he's been great. And then, there's the 4.12 ERA, just sitting there. There are some gems like Sunday or the no-hit outing. There are disasters like his May 30th outing against Wisconsin when he didn't get out of the first while facing eight batters, and then some downright weird ones like on May 13th in Cedar Rapids when he struck out seven over 4 2/3 innings while allowing just one hit, yet also walked seven. He can dominate, he can be a mess, and everything in between, and even if it was for just short stretches, I saw all three of those versions on Sunday.

Austin Wood, RHP, Angels (Low-A Cedar Rapids)
Then there is the trouble with the competition. I mean, how do you judge what a 22-year-old is doing against a Low-A lineup that features one legitimate prospect? Since promoting Orlando Calixte and Lane Adams to the Carolina League, Kane County's lone hitter who lights you up is Jorge Bonafacio, who seems to have run out of gas with the long season and the summer heat. He was great, but how great? Would that start, if you could replicate it pitch by pitch, work at Double-A Arkansas? High-A Inland Empire? I'm not sure, but I don't think anyone at either level hits that 98 mph fastball Wood finished the game with.

Austin Wood, RHP, Angels (Low-A Cedar Rapids)
And if you think the Kane County lineup was bad, you should have seen Cedar Rapids. Only one single-digit round pick, and that's a catcher hitting .227/.296/.345. Everyone else was a double-digit round pick, and only three of the nine even had an OPS over 700. And they played a major role in the day, as I was actually there (presumptively) to see Kyle Zimmer pitch against them. That's who people want to hear about, not Austin Wood. They want to hear about the fifth overall pick in the draft who signed for $3 million dollars and has the potential to be a star-level starting pitcher for an organization oh so desperate for one. That would be easy, as Zimmer was exactly as expected during his four innings, allowing three hits, walking two and striking out six. He had a 94-95 mph fastball that touched 97, a decent change that could use some refinement and one of those curveballs that is too good not only for Low-A hitters, but for Low-A umpires as well, as yesterday's home plate official often seemed as frozen as the guys with the bats, leading to several missed ball/strike calls. That would have been the easy comment, but I'm still thinking about Austin Wood.

Austin Wood, RHP, Angels (Low-A Cedar Rapids)
One of the few times I didn't think about Austin Wood during the game was when the Zooperstars were on the field. When do they get new ones? It's been the same ones for years and the latex outfits are getting faded and dirty. How much money do they make? How much money do the people in inflated suites make individually? There are the things you think about when some fringy NDFA is on the mound (Zimmer went only four) and you're waiting to see Wood again.

Austin Wood, RHP, Angels (Low-A Cedar Rapids)
But back to Wood. I know I'm not the first person to wonder what he is or, more importantly, what he can be. I know he was pretty awful as a freshman at Florida State, walking 25 and striking out 13 in just 22 2/3 innings. I know he wasn't good after leaving the Seminoles and enrolling at St. Petersburg Junior College, but he still showed enough of all the things I've tried to tell you about to be drafted by the Rays in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. He thought he could go higher, and for a while, it looked like he was right as he was arguably the best pitcher in the Cape Cod League. He transferred to Southern California with dreams of landing in the first round, but instead, we got a 5.61 ERA, 90 hits allowed in 77 innings and just 50 strikeouts. He was still big, and he still threw hard, and that was enough for the Angels to draft him in the sixth round and give him a $180,000 bonus. I would love to know what that discussion was like in the draft war room. I don't disagree with that number, as he's potentially worth far more than that. But what's the sell job here? Here's a guy who pitched really well in a handful of outings, but has otherwise been a mess for years, so...let's take him in the sixth round! Again, he looked like a hell of a lot more than a sixth-round pick on Sunday, but that had to have taken a lot of convincing at the time. These are the kind of things I wonder about while distracting me from trying to figure out what Austin Wood is. I wonder about how the talk in the war room went. I wonder about what every report from the signing scout, Tim Corcoran, looked like, and how much the scout's opinion of Wood changed throughout the spring. I wonder if Corcoran has seen him since, and what he thinks now. I wonder if the Angels are as confused as I am, or if they have some very real, concrete idea of what Austin Wood can be.

Austin Wood, RHP, Angels (Low-A Cedar Rapids)
So what can Austin Wood be? He's big, he throws very hard, he holds his stuff deep into games, and sometimes he has secondary pitches. When everything is on, he looks like a starting pitcher. Not just a good one, but a very good one. Even when it's not all there he looks like one of those frustrating starters who can never get everything going but has enough stuff anyway to be a number four, while you wonder why he's not better. Maybe coaches just find one good off-speed pitch he can throw consistently and, knowing that the fastball is always there, try to make him a reliever, maybe even a closer. And maybe nothing ever comes together, or the command and control go south, and the disaster starts become more frequent and he just never gets there. Every one of those scenarios makes sense to me at 2:30 am. Every damn one.

Austin Wood, RHP, Angels (Low-A Cedar Rapids)
That last pitch stuck with me. 98 miles per hour. With some run on it. Untouchable, at least at the Low-A level. Wood walked off the mound, and everyone behind home plate knew he was done for the day after seven strong innings. The first thing I did was find someone who had seen Wood far more than I have and ask the obvious question. “Why doesn't this guy dominate more?” There was a long pause, the kind that I misread assuming that the response would be brilliant, but take time to translate from thought into language. “I don't know,” he said. I'd like to think that like The Stranger at the end of The Big Lebowski that I can take comfort in that, but it's 3 a.m., and I'm still trying to wrap my head around Austin Wood.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  Prospects,  Scouting,  Minor Leagues

42 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Geniu... (08/06)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Future Shock: The Mids... (08/01)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Future Shock: Consider... (08/08)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: The Be... (08/06)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Don't Forget the Vets
Fantasy Article Fantasy Team Preview: San Francisco Giants
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Pitching at a Premium
Premium Article Skewed Left: Padres Can't Play It Safe
Premium Article Moonshot: In Search of Pedro Cerrano
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Padres Add Myers
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: What the Rays and Nati...

MORE FROM AUGUST 6, 2012
Fantasy Article Value Picks: Second, Short, and Catcher for ...
The Week in Quotes: July 30-August 5
Premium Article Collateral Damage Daily: Monday, August 6
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Monday, August 6
Premium Article The Call-Up: Josh Vitters
Premium Article The Call-Up: Brett Jackson
What You Need to Know: Monday, August 6

MORE BY KEVIN GOLDSTEIN
2012-08-08 - Premium Article Future Shock: Considering a Trout Extension
2012-08-08 - Premium Article Future Shock Blog: Minor League Update: Game...
2012-08-07 - Premium Article Future Shock Blog: Minor League Update: Game...
2012-08-06 - Premium Article Future Shock: Monday Morning Ten Pack, Austi...
2012-08-06 - Premium Article The Call-Up: Brett Jackson
2012-08-06 - Premium Article The Call-Up: Josh Vitters
2012-08-03 - BP Podcast: Episode 100: I Just Realized I K...
More...

MORE FUTURE SHOCK
2012-08-15 - Premium Article Future Shock: The Bundy Dilemma
2012-08-13 - Premium Article Future Shock: Monday Morning Ten Pack
2012-08-08 - Premium Article Future Shock: Considering a Trout Extension
2012-08-06 - Premium Article Future Shock: Monday Morning Ten Pack, Austi...
2012-08-01 - Premium Article Future Shock: The Midseason Top 50 Prospects
2012-08-01 - Premium Article Future Shock: Ranking The Traded Prospects
2012-07-30 - Premium Article Future Shock: Monday Morning Ten Pack
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2013-04-08 - Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of April 5-April ...