Brandon Wood Returns

Brandon Wood has blossomed since his last callup.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Howie Kendrick is back on the disabled list due to a small fracture on his left index finger, suffered July 3 while swinging the bat.

Brandon Wood was recalled from Salt Lake, and it’s implied that should he play third base Chone Figgins will move over to 2B.

Wood, 22, wasn’t ready for prime time when he was called up in late April while Figgins and infielder Maicer Izturis were on the DL. He appeared in three games, had only a single in 11 AB, and struck out five times while not taking a walk.

Brandon got off to a slow start with Salt Lake, which led the instant gratification crowd to dismiss him as a "bust" and demand the Angels trade him "while he still has value."

Thank goodness Angels GM Bill Stoneman ignored that advice.

Twenty-two is a very young age for Triple-A. If you watched the Triple-A All-Star Game on Wednesday, many of those players were in their mid-20s to even early 30s. Those guys aren’t necessarily top prospects, but they were seasoned veterans, some of whom have played in the majors.

So when a 22-year old comes up to Triple-A for the first time and faces experienced pitchers with borderline major-league stuff, it’s only natural that he’ll struggle.

In April, Wood’s AVG/OBP/SLG were .262/.351/.440 (.791 OPS) which isn’t bad for a start, but then he went up to Anaheim and missed some development time. When he returned to Salt Lake on May 9, he had a horrific month, posting a line of .205/.313/.361 (.674 OPS).

Some make a big fuss about Brandon’s strikeout rate. As I’ve written many times before, if you look at Mike Schmidt’s development, he had a lot of strikeouts too at Wood’s age and he wound up in the Hall of Fame. In any case, if you look at Wood’s strikeout rate over April and May in Triple-A, he struck out once every 3.4 AB.

But that’s changed.

Brandon’s performance picked up in June. Since June 1, his strikeout rate is once every 4.7 AB. Compare that to his minor league career rate of 3.7 and his 2006 rate of 3.0, and you see a marked improvement.

Since June 1, he has a .295 AVG, a .356 OBP, 10 HR, 8 2B and a triple.

Still want to "trade him while he has value"?

The most encouraging sign is that the Franklin Covey Syndrome seems to have little effect on his overall numbers. Salt Lake’s park is at 4,500 feet, which means home numbers are often inflated over road numbers. But Wood’s home OPS (.821) and road OPS (.822) are virtually identical.

A better analysis would be to factor out all of the PCL’s high altitude parks — Salt Lake, Las Vegas, Tucson, Albuquerque and Colorado Springs — which I don’t have the time to do that right now. But for what it’s worth, I broke down those 10 HR since June 1 and found that five were in "normal" parks, five were in high-altitude parks.

Brandon still has room to grow, but he’s a lot closer than he was when called up in late April. It’s clear that the Angels’ decision to expose him to major league pitching for a few days worked, because he was able to take that knowledge back with him to Salt Lake and work on what he needed to improve to make the leap for good in 2008, if not sooner.

While in Orem earlier this week, I interviewed Jeff Scholzen, the Angels scout who found and signed Wood. They stay in touch, so Jeff has a unique insight into Brandon’s development. Click Here to listen to the interview. You need Windows Media Player.


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