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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPERS: ALEX WOOD SP ATLANTA BRAVES

                                           Alex Wood

Sometimes it is just too obvious.  A said pitcher or hitter is so destined to be a star due to makeup and ability that nothing will hold him back.  In almost all cases, these players see their draft values go through the roof as everyone tries to get their hands on the next Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw monster can't miss prospect.  Very rarely does this player come into a given season somewhat under the radar and thus having the opportunity to provide crazy value to his smart owners.  This very rare scenario is currently unfolding with Atlanta Braves upstart starting pitcher Alex Wood who already has shown ace-like power ability and who looks set up to have a monster breakout season in 2015.  Yours truly almost always advises against reaching for young players in annual drafts but this is one case I know I will be determined to get aggressive with in my draft.  Let's find out why.

Having turned only 24 this past January, Wood is the epitome of the young pitching prospect.  The southpaw was the team's second round pick back in 2012, so right off the bat a lot is expected out of Wood.  Pushing quickly through the farm system, the Braves called up the than 22-year-old during the 2013 season when injuries ravaged the rotation.  Being thrust right into action, Wood acquitted himself very well in pitching to a 3.13 ERA in 11 starts while striking out 77 batters in only 77.2 innings.  Having clearly showed the goods to be a big-time starter, the Braves had Wood break camp in the rotation to begin 2014 as well.  However in one of the more bone-headed decisions of last season, the Braves foolishly moved Wood to the bullpen in order to remedy a crowed rotation.  The result was that Wood stunted a bit in clearly not taking to the new role and soon he found himself back in the minors trying to build up his stamina as the Braves now wanted him to be a starter again.  Wood is lucky he did not get injured due to all of that back-and-forth nonsense but his dominant performance once he got called up again once and for stamped him for future stardom.  Grading out as a top five starter in ALL of baseball the second half of the season, Wood was incredibly dominant in pitching to a 2.20 ERA and 1.08 WHIP while striking out an insane 88 batters in only 86 innings.  Showing top-notch control for a young power starter and the K rate to further classify himself as a future ace, Wood is on the fast track to being one of the best pitchers in baseball.

In looking back, Wood finished the 2014 season with a collective 2.78 ERA and 1.14 WHIP while striking out 170 batters in 171.2 innings.  The K rate came in at an impressive 8.91, the home run rate a miniscule 0.84, and the BB/9 IP at a solid 2.36.  Even Wood's .296 BABIP checked out as neutral which means what we saw in 2014 was completely legit.  The fact Wood has all the important requirements for stardom checked off already (low walk rate, high K rate, low home run rate), it is amazing the hype is not more crazy than it is.  The fact Wood spent some time in the bullpen helped keep somewhat of a wrap on his profile but still this is a guy who can absolutely pitch like an SP 2 and maybe even better this season. 

When you put it all together, Alex Wood looks poised to take the step to ace status in 2015. He grades out that good and only will be held back in wins on a bad Braves team.  Go get him and don't let him slip to anyone else this season.

2015 PROJECTION:  14-5 3.04 ERA 1.10 WHIP 196 K

 

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