Two years ago, the converted shortstop was a tall, fiery red glass of awesome. Wood, designated the No. 1 prospect in a farm rich organization by Baseball America, was expected to display his "light-tower power" in the middle of the Halos lineup for years to come. After smashing 43 homers at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, a permanent promotion to the Big Show appeared imminent. Deep league pack rats, pundits and LAA supporters were buzzing with optimism.
Numerous squats at third could unlock Wood's mammoth, Branyan-like power
Flash forward to the present.
To most, Wood's shrinking fantasy prospects are dysfunctional, to say the least. In three brief stints with the senior club, he's failed miserably, quickly attracting a Quad-A label. In 224 box steps, he's compiled an upchuck-worthy .192 BA with seven homers and 19 RBI. The lovechild of Dave Kingman and Rob Deer, he's also notched an embarrassing 74:7 K:BB over that stretch. Mark Reynolds(notes) seems keener eyed. Though he's continuously annihilated Triple-A pitching – he's averaged a homer once every 16.02 at-bats in three seasons as a Bee – and his contact returns have climbed, major league pitchers have bewildered the vexed slugger. In Disneyland, he's managed a 68.5 contact percentage. For Wood, patience still isn't a virtue.
However, the potential late-round leviathan could make his mark in the new decade.
Chone Figgins'(notes) departure to Seattle throws open the door of opportunity for Wood. In previous auditions, the 25-year-old never established a consistent plate rhythm due to playing time uncertainties. Mike Scioscia's puppetry is a major reason why he floundered. Now, out of options, he has a defined role, which has boosted his comfort level and confidence. Of course, the skipper's Smith Barney approach means the corner man will have to "earn" the job this spring, but with only Maicer Izturis(notes) over his shoulder, showcasing a steady glove and improved dish selectivity should stave off the scrappy utilityman. As the hungry Wood told the LA Times, his previous upper-level experience should help him succeed this go-round:
"This is a real process, and sometimes you don't appreciate or understand that when you are younger," Wood says. "When I hit those 43 homers in '05, it was a level where I'd just go up there and get the kind of pitches where I'd figure I'll either strike out or hit a home run.
"I don't think I even saw a two-seamer until Double-A and a cutter until Triple-A."
The alleged choking hazard – many scorned owners would rather take their chances with a hot dog – will likely only be selected via drunken dare in the wee hours of mixed drafts (ADP: 330.19, 3B24). After all, the ferocious winds generated by his bat could challenge the Santa Anas. But he still possesses the pedigree to develop into a 25-30 HR producer this season. In stat speak he could be this year's Russell Branyan(notes) – abysmal BA, difference-making power.
Finally, the post-post-hype sleeper's potential may be realized.