When is a super prospect not really a super prospect?
When that super prosepect’s name is Brandon Wood.
For almost any other team other team, Wood be an everyday starter by now, instead of shuttling between collecting ass splinters on the bench with the big league club and spending his third (yes, THIRD) full season in Triple-A Salt Lake. Surely the Angels have a good explanation for this. Right?
Thus far the explanation given is that “he must earn it.” OK, fair enough, but considering all he has done so far, what else must he do to “earn it?” Did he not earn it when the Angels’ organization forced him to switch from shortstop to third base only to see him do so with a smile? Did he not earn it when he hit .272 with 23 homers and 51 extra base hits in 2007 at Triple-A Salt Lake? Did he not earn when he hit .296 with 31 homers and 55 extra base hits in 2008 at Triple-A Salt Lake? Did he not earn it when he changed his swing at the club’s behest to try and reduce his strikeouts? Did he not earn it when he posted a 1.019 OPS in Spring Training this year? What else does he need to do?
It is almost like the team is actively trying to hold him back. There was no reason for him not to be given a role after his torrid Spring Training, yet he was still sent back to the minors. To his credit, he didn’t complain a single bit because he knew his time would come. And it sure seemed like that time had come when Vladimir Guerrero got hurt. The Angels recalled Wood to the majors, no doubt to help fill the power vacuum created by Vlad’s absence. Yet for some reason, slap-hitting Maicer Izturis has gotten the bulk of those at-bats while Brandon Wood dutifully rides the bench, waiting. Always waiting.
But waiting for what? Mike Scioscia can talk all he wants about Wood needing to earn his playing time, but the fact of the matter is that he is blocked by more established players. For better or worse, the Angels have committed to Chone Figgins as their full-time third baseman and Erick Aybar at shortstop. Now Maicer Izturis has locked up a role for the time being, as has Juan Rivera and Gary Matthews, creating a bottleneck at designated hitter.
But have those other players earned anything themselves? Figgins certainly has paid his dues over the years, but what have you done for me lately? Last year his OPS was under .700 and he is even worse this year. If his speed didn’t fit so perfectly into Mike Scioscia’s style of play, I would think he would have been cast aside years ago. Of course, the Angels could trade him, especially with free agency looming for him. At worst, they could shift him to DH with Wood at third. Not only would DHing Figgins save wear and tear on his small frame, but it would be a defensive upgrade. Wood has thus far profiled as an excellent defender while Figgins is at best above average and has been steadily declining year to year. Aside from the fact that he is the only lead-off hitter on the Angels, Figgins hasn’t been doing much since his fine 2007 season to earn untouchable status.
An alternative would be to move Wood back to his natural position of shortstop. That position is currently occupied by Erick Aybar, a player who does nothing but make me scratch my head about how he has earned his starting job more so than Wood has. Aybar is entering his third season as an Angel, even though he accomplished far less in the minors than Wood did. Now that he is in the bigs, Aybar has done even less. He scratched out a .698 OPS in 2007 and is off to a wretched start (.573 OPS) this season. Aybar certainly was never expected to be an offensive monster, but those stats are barely league average (in fact, his 2008 VORP was only 8.7 and is all the way down to -1.8 in 2009). Where he is supposed to excel is on defense. Aybar has certainly shown a flair for the spectacular, but he has also taught us all that Aybar is Spanish for “mental error.” Yet, Aybar continues to play even though it seems he is trying to actually unearn his job. You are telling me working Wood in at shortstop or having Izturis play there with Wood DHing might not be an upgrade?
As for Izturis, Rivera and Matthews. Those three all serve their purposes and have shown enough flashes recently to earn the playing time they have been receiving (though Matthews’ playing time seems to be more out of financial obligation than anything else). Why Brandon Wood can’t get into that mix, I do not know since he is basically the only guy on the active roster who hasn’t been give a decent shot at helping fill Guerrero’s shoes. Even Robb Quinlan, he of the .637 OPS in 2008, has played more than Wood has since Vlad was placed on the DL.
I think it is plain to see that Wood has paid his dues and then some. But the Angels still see fit to sit him. It is even beginning to look like he is destined to be optioned to the minors again in the near future. At a minimum, Wood should be playing against lefties. With four of the next five games slated to be against left-handed starting pitchers, Wood should get his chance. Keyword being “should.” If Wood still can’t crack the starting line-up against this slew of southpaws, then it is clear the Angels have no plans to utilize their perennial top prospect. That might make one think that the Angels want to trade Wood, but since they refuse to showcase him, his trade value is suppressed.
So, basically, the plan is that there is no plan (and the first rule of Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Fight Club). Tony Reagins and Mike Scioscia seem perfectly content to watch Wood waste away on the Angels bench. At least in Salt Lake he would be getting regular work and thus be ready to play if the Halos ever do feel compelled to utilize him. Maybe there is some grand plan that I am unaware of that will eventually give Wood a chance to shine but, unless there is some sort of a major trade, it is hard to see how Brandon Wood will ever get what he has clearly earned.