In 2012 Atlanta Braves pitcher Alex Wood was pitching in the SEC. Fast forward to August 2013, and Wood is starting for the Braves.
After ten starts with Braves Double-A affiliate Mississippi, and posting a nasty 1.26 ERA, Wood was moved to Atlanta skipping Triple-A altogether.
His transition has been smooth, if not downright scary for opposing lineups.
“Alex Wood is legit. His stuff is nasty,” said veteran Tim Hudson.
“His delivery is funky and there is some good stuff coming out of it,” says manager Fredi Gonzalez.
Wood’s delivery is funky. After the latest series with Washington, Nationals hitters were overheard saying how hard it is to pick the ball up out of Wood’s hand. He’s so tall (6’4”), with such a strange delivery, by the time the ball is out of his hand it looks like he’s already on top of the hitter.
So what about that wacky delivery?
“It’s definitely a little different than most,” Wood said. “I think it helps me. I get to where I need to be on my pitches – I just do it a different way.”
“There are guys who have funk that can’t repeat [the delivery],” GM Frank Wren said of Wood. “He repeats his delivery and throws quality strikes.”
His fastball is lively and stays in 92-93 mph range while occasionally hitting 96. His mid-80s changeup is a second plus offering; the pitch has good life, and he throws it with deceptive arm action. With an average slider Wood was projected as a middle of the road starter or set-up man.
Jason Cole of Baseball Prospectus wrote this on May 30th, prior to Alex Wood’s MLB debut: Wood will join the Braves’ middle-relief corps for the time being, but he has the potential to pitch himself into a bigger role. Given the club’s lack of left-handed relief options, he should have an opportunity to stick in the majors if he has success. Wood’s arsenal is almost fully developed, and if he continues to command and throw strikes like he did in Double-A, it should yield success with his stuff playing up in short bursts out of the ‘pen.
What Mr. Cole failed to realize was Wood learned a knuckle-curve from Braves relievers Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters during spring training. Alex perfected the pitch in Mississippi and credited it with helping him make the longest start of his career. It gives him a third high-quality pitch and the depth to be a top of the rotation guy.
After being drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft, Wood has vaulted to the majors as fast as a Craig Kimbrel fastball.