Alex Wood has become an integral part of the Atlanta Braves rotation, and he’s only 23 years old. It’s always a gamble drafting a player who was only a few years removed from Tommy John surgery, but it seems to be paying off. Last season, Wood was dominant in the games he started, going 3-3 with an ERA of 3.13, at just 22 years old. He only pitched a total of 77 innings, but it was enough to make him part of the regular rotation in 2014.
So far this season, Wood is 9-9 with an ERA of 3.07 and 120 strikeouts in 123 innings pitched. He has also become a great at forcing ground balls, to see a pitcher get a lot of strikeouts and ground balls is rare. He’s doing all of his work on essentially three pitches, a four-seam fastball, a knuckle-curve, and a changeup. He throws his four-seamer about 60% of the time, with an average velocity of about 90mph. Wood is predominantly a fastball/curveball guy, and he likes to use the changeup as his put away pitch. He throws the changeup about 17% of the time, but it’s almost equally as dominant as his other pitches, most likely because of the exceptional horizontal movement it has. Wood has brought the velocity on his fastball down about 2mph, and improved on the control on all of his pitches; but also doesn’t need to rely on it as much as he did last season. He throws the knuckle-curve about 22% of the time, which is an increase of 8% from last season. Wood does his best work when the count is through two strikes, when he gets ahead in the count, he’s virtually unhittable.
There’s nothing that will make you say wow about his velocity, the only thing that might wow you is his funky delivery. What makes his delivery so special is his ability to hide the ball before it leaves his hand. There have been a good amount of questions about the Braves rotation long term regarding Kris Medlen, and Brandon Beachy, but Alex Wood is helping to answer some of those questions. If the Braves make the playoffs, and that is a big if at this point in the season, they can be confident in Wood’s abilities to step up in big games. With each dominant start, the expectations of what he can do, continue to grow. If Alex Wood can keep this level up pitching up, there is no telling how dominant he can be in this league.