One of the most intriguing arms in the Angels system was unfortunately plagued by injury in 2013. Can Austin Wood get his arm healthy and get his career back on track in 2014?
Position: RHP Highest Level: High-A
Bats: R Throws: R Height: 6'4" Weight: 225
Age: 23 Born: 7/11/90
2013 Rank: #16
2013 Season Stats
AZL: 4.1 IP, 0-0, 2.08 ERA, 4 H, 4 BB, 0 HR, 4 SO, 4.12 FIP, .364 BABIP, 81.8 GB%
High-A: 21.2 IP, 0-3, 4.15 ERA, 25 H, 12 BB, 1 HR, 18 SO, 3.80 FIP, .348 BABIP, 45.7 GB%
Fastball = A-
Wood effectively bombards the opposition with a fastball that sits 96-97 and can at times inch closer to triple digits. That’s as a starter. We haven’t seen what he can do as a reliever yet, except for a couple stints in Spring Training in which he was utterly dominant. In fact, Wood was so good in Spring Training last year, Angels management considered making him a reliever and having him skip A+, AA and AAA and join the major league team.
Offspeed Pitches = B+
Wood has major league quality off-speed pitches. He throws a slurve/slider that is a “plus” pitch and is used frequently in two-strike counts. At times he’ll employ a “sinker” type of pitch that really just looks a bit like a two-seamer to me, which sits in the low-90’s. He also throws a changeup with considerable drop that is 15-20 mph softer than his fastball but comes from the same arm angle, which makes it both promising for Wood and deadly for hitters. This pitch has created some comical swing and misses.
Control = D
Wood is the most extreme case of “hit or miss” that I’ve seen in the Angels system. When he’s on, Wood is untouchable, an undisputed top of the rotation superstar pitcher. When he’s off, he might walk 10 batters in 6 innings. This is essentially what hurts his status as a prospect the most. There hasn’t been any trend, so at this point you never actually know what you’re going to get.
Command = D
Again, when he’s on, he puts the ball wherever he wants to and simply cannot be touched. When he’s off, he can’t find the strike zone much less pin-point the ball to any side of the plate.
Mechanics = C
I don’t see anything in his mechanics that suggest he should have lingering arm problems but you never know. He does lose his release point rather frequently. However, I do love that Wood uses he massive frame to create as little stress on his throwing arm as possible and creates a downward angle.
Performance = D
It was a lost year for Wood. He had a decent early season showing in the Cal League before hitting the DL and only making a couple of rehab appearances later in the year in Rookie Ball. I wouldn’t expect Wood to start the year in AA in 2014. He has enough to work on that he should remain in the Cal League for a full year.
Projection = A
If everything clicks for Wood, he’s a future ace, no doubt about it. How often do you see big-bodied starters with more than two “plus” off-speed pitches and a mid-high 90’s heater? Not often, in fact the Angels have one of only a handful in baseball right now in Garrett Richards.
Grade as a Prospect = C+
He’d be nearly a B- grade as a prospect if he’d have stayed on the field and thrown a couple more strikes. As it stands now he’s a 23 year old in A+ Ball coming off injury with a history of issuing free-passes. The funny part is, he could turn into an A grade prospect a year from now.
Estimated MLB Arrival Date = 2015-208
That’s right, I took the trouble to list a three year window in which Wood may make the Major Leagues. I realize this takes no brilliant detective work but follow me on this one. If he comes back 100% and is transitioned to reliever, he won’t spend much time in the minors at all. He’d be like another Jordan Walden. However, if the Angels intend to keep him a starter because of his array of pitches and excellent stamina, it could be another four years before we see him in an Angels uniform. One thing I’m relatively certain of, barring injury, Austin Wood will be a major leaguer someday. Guys like him that are blessed from above with a golden rocket arm and exploding breaking pitches just don’t stay in the minors.
2013 in Review*
2013 started off much the same way 2012 went for Wood, flashes of dominance thanks to his impressive velocity and sometimes devastating slider but also some real struggles with control. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see him work towards correcting those control issues and establishing consistency in his mechanics and performance as Wood was felled by arm problems early in the season. He made it back from those health issues in time to make two rehab appearances in the AZL in July, only to get shutdown again. All in all, it was pretty much a wasted year for Austin Wood.
Wood was already something of a boom-or-bust prospect before this season and his arm problems this year only served to drive that evaluation even further home. Control problems and arm injuries just aren't a good combination. What that typically means is that Wood is going to be on a pretty short leash as far as being a rotation candidate goes. 2014 is going to come with a mandate for Wood that he make some significant progress with his command issues and show that he has the durability to handle a starter's workload. If he fails on either count, he could very likely find himself converted to relief.
That isn't the worst outcome, mind you, there are many who thought Wood was destined for the bullpen even before he got hurt. With his velocity and swing-and-miss breaking ball, Wood has the stuff to be late-inning force. In such a role, his command and durability issues would be mitigated and Wood might even find himself fast-tracked to the majors. But first, the Angels need to see if he can make it in the rotation. That evaluation should begin in the Inland Empire for Wood with a potential bump up to Double-A if Wood can make some developmental strides.
*As we do every year, the scouting reports and grades are provided by Scotty Allen while Garrett Wilson provides the 2013 in Review and Looking Ahead sections.