Player Profile: Alex Wood

Alex Wood has been a blessing for 2013 Atlanta Braves. Not all was lost when Tim Hudson went down, but when his injury was coupled with Paul Maholm pitching poorly their rotation needed help. Cue, Alex Wood to center stage.

Wood has been one of the biggest surprises of 2013 for fantasy owners.

Nobody expected THIS from Alex Wood. But will it stick? 

Originally called up to help solidify the bullpen, Wood was forced into the rotation after the previous circumstances unfolded. Wood hasn’t disappointed at all in his brief stint in the rotation. He’s compiled a 3.02 ERA to go along with striking out a little over a batter per nine innings in his 29.2 innings since joining the rotation. Advanced metrics like him even more. His FIP sits at 2.07, while his xFIP sits at 2.77. Wood has had his success due to mainly three aspects of his game. He strikes out plenty of batters (9.4 per nine), doesn’t walk many batters (1.99 per nine), and he gets plenty of ground balls (46.8%). That’s a recipe for success.

How is Wood succeeding? 

Wood’s arsenal is perhaps the best of the Braves’ rotation. His change-up is possibly the best pitch on the entire staff, and his curve has made tremendous gains after some coaching from Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel.

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Since entering the rotation Wood’s change-up has generated whiffs on a third of the swings taken by opposing batters. His curve follows closely behind at 26%. This is simply outstanding. Much has been said in the media about Wood’s unorthodox delivery and its possible future effect on his ability to stay healthy, but it undoubtedly adds to the deception factor of his fantastic change-up.

Wood has held both righties and lefties at bay despite two completely differently approaches.

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As you can see, Wood relies heavily on his fastball no matter which side the batter hits from (rightfully so, his average velo sits at 92 mph). He then utilizes the platoon splits of both pitches by tailoring his secondary pitches to the handedness of the batter. Change-ups are markedly more effective to opposite handed hitters, so Wood uses his 10% more versus righties than he does versus lefties. Curves and sliders can likewise have large platoon splits, so Wood utilizes his less versus righties than versus lefties.

Fantasy Value: 2013 and Beyond

Wood’s value for the rest of 2013 depends entirely on his chances to stay in Atlanta’s rotation. He has pitched very well since being thrust into it nearly a month ago, so it’s tough to see Atlanta moving him at this point. There could be two issues impeding his spot though: innings and “veteran presence (or presents if you hate this reasoning like I do).” There hasn’t been any news about an innings limit for Wood, but you never know quite what will happen with young arms. Paul Maholm is scheduled to return soon, and we all know how much managers love to have veterans on the squad. Wood has outpitched Maholm without question, but he could still lose out on a few starts down the stretch due to Maholm’s return or perhaps the switch to a six man rotation.

However, next season looks very promising for Wood. He seemingly has a spot in rotation locked up. He could be a very tantalizing fantasy option next season. Everything about him screams good pitcher. He gets strikeouts, doesn’t allow free passes, and keeps the ball in the yard. I am anxiously waiting to see how he is viewed going into 2014. If Wood can stay healthy he could turn into a fantasy number two or three next season with an outside chance at becoming a little more.

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The list above contains all starting pitchers who have thrown enough innings to qualify on FanGraphs while posting a K/9 rate of 8.50 or better, a BB/9 of 3.50 or better (except Gio), while getting groundballs 45% or more of the time.  I’m not saying Alex Wood will be as good as any of these guys, but that’s some pretty damn good company to be in for 2014. You should be able to draft him MUCH later than any of these guys in 2014, so the return on investment could be astronomical.

Landon Jones is a staff writer for RotoAnalysis. Read his work all season long on RotoAnalysis.com and TheFantasyFix.com, and follow him on Twitter @JonesLandon!

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Photo Credit: http://www1.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Alex+Wood+Toronto+Blue+Jays+v+Atlanta+Braves+ex5mQR-5QFrl.jpg

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