by Kyle Johansen
Starting for the Cincinnati Reds at just 23-years-old, Travis Wood quietly put together a breakout season in 2010. The highlight came on July 10th at Philadelphia where Wood took a no-hit bid into the bottom of the ninth inning before Carlos Ruiz broke it up with a lead-off double (Wood’s line: 9 IP 0ER 1H 0BB 8K). Despite the exposure from that game and an impressive rookie season, Wood has not received much hype heading into 2011. Take a look at last year’s results:
I think part of the reason Wood hasn’t received a whole lot of love is that he has never been one to frequent Top 100 prospect lists. Plus, sitting at 5’ 11” and 166 lbs, he does not have the prototypical size of a pitcher. Wood has also seen his share of struggles in the minor leagues.
After faring well at Rookie and A-ball, Wood struggled at A+ in ‘07 with a 4.86 ERA and 1.64 WHIP. Repeating A+ the following season, Wood showed improvement with a 2.70 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 46 IP. This earned him a mid-season promotion to Double-A where he fell flat on his face with a 7.09 ERA and 1.74 WHIP in 80 IP.
The utter failure in his first taste of the upper minors was the last time Wood has struggled for an extended period. Repeating Double-A in 2009, Wood was nothing short of dominant compiling a 1.21 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in 119 IP. The growth that year continued, instead of failing upon his next promotion Wood handled Triple-A with ease, putting up a 3.14 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 48 IP.
Wood saw increased growth in 2010 as he improved his Triple-A numbers across the board. His strikeouts went from 5.9 to 8.9 K/ 9 while his walks fell from 3.0 to 2.2 BB/9. Accordingly, his ERA fell to 3.06 and WHIP to 1.10 in 100 IP before getting the call to the majors.
Part of the hesitance to jump on the Wood-wagon is the fact that he is not assured of a starting rotation spot in 2011. However, with nothing left to prove at Triple-A and such an encouraging performance in 2010, I just cannot see Wood being squeezed from the Reds 2011 starting rotation.
Wood will see competition for the fifth starter’s role from Mike Leake and potentially Aroldis Chapman with Matt Maloney likely needing an injury to crack the rotation. While Leake was impressive at times last year, some minor league seasoning may be in order after jumping straight to the Reds roster from college last year. As for Chapman, I think most agree that he is best suited to the bullpen for now to utilize his velocity and tame his wildness.
The main reason to like Wood moving forward is his strong command. His 2.2 BB/9 from Triple-A in 2010 transferred over straight to the majors, with a 2.3 BB/9 for the Reds. His 8.4 career K/9 in the minors also translated reasonably well to the majors with 7.5 in 2010. If Wood can continue down the same path in 2011, I believe he will become a fixture in the Reds starting rotation.
Some may look at Wood’s .259 BABIP in 2010 and point to this as a sign of regression, but as an extreme fly ball pitcher, Wood has a natural tendency to suppress his BABIP. In seven different stops in the minor leagues, Wood only posted a BABIP above .300 on two different occasions. As far as stranded base runners go, this is an area where Wood will hopefully see an improvement to the mean from the 68.4% he posted last year.
One area Wood did seem to find overly good fortune was in his HR/FB, which sat at just 6.3% in 2010 despite pitching half his games at Great American Ballpark. A regression in this area could result in an uglier ERA, potentially in the area of his 4.17 xFIP in 2010.
Currently, Travis Wood is barely even being drafted in 12-team leagues, going at pick #262 according to Median Draft Position. For the low cost of nothing you may have yourself a reliable fourth option at SP who will provide reasonable Ks and ERA combined with the potential for a strong WHIP. He’ll also receive run support from the Reds lineup, meaning the fickle Wins category may show him favor.
Travis Wood is an example of why there can be a natural tendency to devalue pitchers when compared to hitters. Pitching can be very unpredictable from year-to-year, but values like Travis Wood can always be obtained late in a draft.
What are your thoughts of Travis Wood? Is he a player that you would take the gamble on in 2011? Why or why not?
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Make sure to check out some of our 2011 projections: