The Time is Now for Brandon Wood

Brandon Wood
Brandon Wood hit 43 homers in 2005 with Rancho Cucamonga, an Angels minor league single-season record.

 

If you’ve followed the FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects reports I’ve written over the years, one unique analysis is the split of Salt Lake numbers. Franklin Covey field is hitter-friendly at 4,500 feet, but a simple home/road analysis won’t suffice. The Pacific Coast League has other hitter-friendly parks — Las Vegas, Tucson, Albuquerque and Colorado Springs. So what I do is calculate splits for those five versus the rest of the league.

Brandon Wood is no longer eligible for rookie status, having more than 130 at-bats in the majors, so he didn’t appear on the 2008 FutureAngels.com Top 10 list. But after reading yet again more claims by certain individuals on fan boards and blogs that Wood is a “bust” at age 23, I thought I’d perform this unique split analysis and see what we come up with.

Here are Wood’s splits in 2007 at age 22 (AVG/OBP/SLG):

High-Altitude AVG/OBP/SLG: .279/.352/.472
Pitcher-Friendly/Other AVG/OBP/SLG: .258/.305/.553

Here are the new calculations for his 2008 season at age 23:

High-Altitude AVG/OBP/SLG: .296/.382/.577
Pitcher-Friendly/Other AVG/OBP/SLG: .297/.364/.633

A couple of interesting trends emerge:

  • In 2007, Wood’s SLG in the neutral/pitcher-friendly parks was higher than in the hitter-friendly parks — .553 vs. .472. That trend continued in 2008, .633 vs. .577.
  • Wood showed a dramatic improvement in his neutral/pitcher-friendly numbers, from .258/.305/.553 to .297/.364/.633. Even if you opt to use these more conservative numbers as an accurate reflection of his progress, those are great numbers for a 23-year old in Triple-A.

Some people argue that Triple-A isn’t the big leagues. I agree.

But the only way a hitter is going to learn to adjust to major league pitching is to face major league pitching. That means showing the patience to let him struggle until he figures it out.

I’ve pointed out many times that Mike Schmidt went through a similar struggle. In 1973, his first full season with Philadelphia, his numbers were .196/.324/.373 in 132 games. At the end of that season, he had 401 major-league at-bats. Wood so far has 183 AB. Schmidt was about the same age as Wood is now.

The unique split analysis shows that Brandon Wood has nothing left to prove in Triple-A. It’s time to hand him a big league job, either at shortstop or third base, and let him play every day. It may take a good three months or so before it all clicks for him, but the AL West isn’t likely to pose much of a challenge for the Angels this year, so they can afford to let him have some regular playing time.

Nonetheless, he’ll have to come into spring training and show he deserves that job. My point is it’s time to give him that opportunity.

5 Comments

It’s time. I agree.

But, especially with the Abreu signing, it necessitates a deal as the OF and DH slots are crowded as heck right now.

Figgins would have to go. That means you rely on Aybar in the leadoff position. It seems he’s healthy and had a great winter ball stint. Izturis and Rodriguez serves as the backup plan at third if Wood tanks.

And it’s not like teams won’t be more than willing to shed third basemen in this economy come June/July.

But remember that Figgins has come into his own at third, defensively. His 12.3 UZR/150 last year was very respectable. Wood cannot expect that in his first full year so he would cost the Angels runs in the field as well.

http://www.minorleaguesplits.com/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?pl=457420

Something else probably clanking around in the mind of Reagins that impedes him from dealing Figgins is that fact that, while his walk rate has never been ridiculously good, he’s always been among the best in the league in pitches seen per plate appearance. The fact that he has great value in the league as a second basemen when taking positional adjustment into account makes him moveable.

He’s a prime candidate for a spring training deal, making room for Wood, but putting Aybar in the leadoff spot with his brutal walk rate and P/PA for a leadoff hitter directly affects the insertion of Wood into the lineup.

Trading Figgins would undeniably be a loss in production. But the re-signing of Izturis, a nearly comparable player in utility and production, seems to mean Figgins is gone.

Are we good with that?

Or do they handle the logjam for a half-season, see who pans out, and make a move then.

What the practical move here?

While I DON’T endorse this right now, I wonder if they’re waiting to see if Kendrick learns to take a walk. 30 BBs in over 900 major league at-bats is unacceptable from a prototypical #2 hitter. Do they move him while he has value?

I dunno. I really love Kendrick. But if it continues, SOME sense could be made from doing it.

What’s your answer w/r/t roster moves?

Actually, I thought the time to move Figgins was a year ago, when he was coming off his career year.

In any case, if I were GM I would be looking to move Figgins for a back-of-the-rotation starter (or better) to replace Jon Garland. I would then install Wood at 3B and go with Izturis or Aybar at SS.

I’d have no problem batting Kendrick leadoff. He may not take a lot of walks, but he’s going to be a .330 AVG hitter pretty soon and can get his OBP over .350 with just a few walks. Besides, a hit moves up runners while a walk doesn’t unless it’s a force.

My lineup would therefore look something like this:

1. Kendrick 2B
2. Abreu DH
3. Guerrero RF
4. Hunter CF
5. Morales 1B
6. Rivera LF
7. Wood 3B
8. Napoli/Mathis C
9. Izturis/Aybar SS

Yes. Figgins should have been moved. True dat.

But he’s an Angels through this year, most likely.

And that would speak to your idea of batting Kendrick leadoff.

I assume you wouldn’t place him there now, before he’s proven a) he can consistently hit in the .330 range and b) get his walk rate up.

And even a half season of such a thing with Figgins on the roster seems improbable.

But yeah, 2010 seems like the time to give Kendrick a look IF such things happen (and he learns to lay off the slider away).

In my opinion, the Angels’ biggest weakness is lack of power at the corner infield positions. Figgins is on the wrong side of 30, and a duplication of his .685 OPS last year is unacceptable at 3B, no matter how competent his defense is. Figgins can still be valuable at 2B and as a utility man, but the Angels had better hope Brandon Wood develops.
I agree with both of you that Figgins should have been/should be moved. And I also agree that if Kendrick doesn’t learn how to take a walk sometime soon, his value goes down as well. I wonder what the Angels’ brass thinks of his development under Mickey Hatcher, and of what happened to Casey Kotchman, who has a plus plus eye but was encouraged to emulate Garret Anderson’s free-swinging ways. I believe the Angels ruined Kotchman.
Going back to Wood, if his defensive abilities at SS are good enough, then the Angels should stick him there, even if it’s a defensive downgrade from Aybar. Check out this report of Wood:
http://www.baseball-intellect.com/Articles/future-for-brandon-wood.html
I personally doubt that Wood is going to be a real stud because of his long swing, but I’d be ok with a sub-.250 average and 25 HRs a year from my SS. Aybar could be used as a utility IF, or at 2B if Kendrick doesn’t pan out or continues to be injury-prone. What the Angels really need is production from 3B. Have any suggestions in terms of next year’s free agent pool, or potential trades?

Wood’s swing isn’t what it was in 2005 or even 2007. I documented last year that the Angels worked with him to change his mechanics, one major change being that they lowered his hands. Hatcher and Triple-A hitting coach Jim Eppard said that Wood’s hands were so fast that the bat entered and exited his strike zone too quickly. So they lowered his hands to extend the amount of time his bat is on a plane through the strike zone.

The last step — which is true for all minor leaguers struggling to make the transition to the big leagues — is to adjust to major-league pitching. The game is faster, the pitches break more sharply and later in their approach to the plate, and pitchers are far more accurate. The only way he’ll get over that hump is to play every day in the majors. He won’t see that in Triple-A.

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