Monday, November 19, 2007
Top Prospect List: #9 Travis Wood, LHP
Travis Wood is the best left-handed pitching prospect the Reds have had in quite some time. The Reds grabbed Wood in the second round of the 2005 draft with the 60th overall pick. Wood was drafted out of Bryant High School in Arkansas. He's 5'11 tall, 166 lbs, bats right, and throws left.
Wood features a fastball that regularly sat at 93-94 in high school, but was down in the 87-91 range in 2006 and 2007. The fastball has good movement, but the Reds would love to see his velocity bounce back. Wood also features one of the best changeups in all of the minor leagues. Wood uses the circle change grip and the pitch is nearly indistinguishable from his fastball coming out of his hand. In addition, his changeup has good late sink as it reaches the plate. Wood is still trying to refine his curveball, which he'll need in order to have success against the more advanced competition.
Wood exploded onto the scene in 2005, dominating the Rookie League with both the Gulf Coast League Reds and the Billings Mustangs. In the Gulf Coast League, Wood posted a 0.75 ERA with a 0.83 and a 45/7 K/BB ratio. He then was bumped up to Billings, where he had a 1.82 ERA with a 1.14 WHIP and a 22/13 K/BB ratio.
In 2006 at low-A Dayton, Wood built on his rookie season success. He pitched 140 innings posting a 3.86 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP and a 133/56 K/BB ratio.
In 2007, Wood was promoted to high-A Sarasota, where he worked only 46.1 innings. Wood struggled with tendinitis in his pitching arm. It's not an injury that is of long-term concern, but it did cost him some development time. Wood tried to pitch throw the tendinitis, which impacted his overall numbers. As a result, he only had a 4.86 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP, but he still had a stellar strikeout rate. He struck out 54 batters in only 46.1 innings pitched, but also walked 27 batters.
Wood has consistently posted dominating numbers. Last year was he least impressive, but was also injury plagued. Now that he's healthy, Wood is very likely to bounce back in 2008, but he needs to continue refining his other pitches as he climbs the ladder. The more advanced competition at the higher levels will force Wood to rely on a more diversified repertoire, but he'll only be 21 next season so he's still got plenty of time to develop.
Simply put, Wood has very solid mechanics. There just isn't much not to like.
Wood starts his motion off by stepping to the side with his "glove side" (GS) leg, then bringing it up into a high leg kick. His leg kick coils his hips, which provides a lot of storied energy to be unleashed when he uncoils. He has a strong "drop and drive" move towards the plate, which gives him a good push off the rubber. He doesn't throw from straight over the top, but rather from a very high three-quarter arm slot. He has good balance and consistent tempo throughout the motion. His tempo is quick, but he keeps his body in sync.
The only real issue he might have is a rather minor one. Occasionally, he seems to pitch against a stiff GS leg. Instead of landing on the GS leg and finishing with his upper body over the top of his legs, he occasionally throws against a firm GS leg, which results in his upper body being pushed back towards the mound against his GS leg and his upper body not finishing over the top of his legs. This is a minor issue, but it's possible that throwing against a stiff GS leg could increase the strain on the arm.
You can access Wood's MLB draft scouting video here.
All in all, Wood's mechanics are sound. I wouldn't put them in a class with Josh Ravin, but they are very solid. However, there is quite a bit of effort in Wood's delivery. His motion is quick and he puts a great deal of effort into each pitch, which could increase the stress on the arm. Factor in his slight build and there is an increased cause for concern on the injury front, so the Reds will have to handle him carefully.
Wood's future is bright, but he is living on his changeup against inexperienced competition. In addition, his max effort delivery and injury in 2007 are cause for concern. To be successful, Wood will have to stay healthy and improve his other offerings. Ultimately, Wood has #3 starter upside, but he's got quite a way to go before he can reach it. He'll likely head back to high-A Sarasota to start 2008.
Ultimately, his success at the higher levels will be determined by his health and the quality of his secondary pitches, but for now Travis Wood clocks in at #9.