Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bucs and Brandon Wood

The Bucco shortstop situation is quietly getting out of hand. Ronny Cedeno ha a line of .170/0/4, an unspectacular 2.1 UZR-150 rating, and lately has been making on-field decisions ala Lastings Milledge. The Pirate patience with him has been Job-like, but it looks like it's finally worn thin.

Not that there's much behind him. Rule 5 selection Josh Rodriguez is the reserve, and he's better suited to playing second than short. And with six strikeouts in ten hitless plate appearances (he has walked once), JR has the early look of Brian Bixler without the leather.

Things aren't all that much brighter on the farm. Primo prospect Chase d'Arnaud is batting .261, cooling off after a scorching start, and had an uninspiring (.247 BA) 2010 season at Altoona. More to the point, many scouting reports profile him as a second base guy in the show, not a SS.

Pedro Ciriaco has a plus glove and plus speed, but his bat doesn't match. He did have a strong spring, but he's hitting just .143 so far and doesn't draw walks, following a .265 average last year in AAA, with a lowly .281 OBP.

The other camp candidate, Corey Wimberly, was tried at short in camp, but became the Tribe's fourth outfielder after flunking the audition.

Prospects Jordy Mercer and Brock Holt are both at Altoona; Brock is hitting the ball (.307) and starting at short; Mercer isn't hitting the ball (.179) and looks like he's being groomed as a utility guy.

So there's not much at short in the organization, hence the interest in Brandon Wood. He was DFA'ed by the Angels, and Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors almost immediately had him popping up on Pittsburgh's radar. Bob Nightengale of USA Today went so far as to tweet that "The Pirates and others are all over him."

Wood is 26 year old right-handed batter with 494 career MLB plate appearances and a .168/.197/.259 line to his credit, along with 11 HR's and the baggage of 153 Ks to go with just 13 walks.

In 2006, he was Baseball America's #3 prospect (behind Delmon Young and Justin Upton) after smacking 43 homers in Class A; he was still a Top Ten guy the following season. But the higher he rose, the more apparent it became that he and the curve ball would never find a happy middle ground.

Still, he had enough pop that the Halos gave him a shot at starting at 3B last year. He wasn't moved to the hot corner because of his glove, but rather to make room for another hot prospect, Erick Aybar. The Angels hoped both could be fast-tracked to the show with the position switch; it was thought they let Chone Figgins leave to open a spot for him.

But Wood didn't rise to the occasion, and hit just .146 in 226 at-bats for LA in 2010.

But that shouldn't stop the Bucs, who missed out on JJ Hardy in the thin SS class of 2011. Wood is desperately in need of some plate discipline, but he's still young and has never gotten a real chance to get his feet wet in the show; contending teams have short leashes.

That shouldn't be a problem in Pittsburgh; they can give him a good, long look in a relatively stress-free environment. Whether they land him or not is still up in the air; the Angels and Bucs would probably have to swing a deal, because he's not likely to last on the market long enough to be claimed. There are other teams in the hunt for his services.

He is out of options, and somebody will have to exit the roster if he comes aboard, but at this point adding him and returning Rodriguez wouldn't hurt the cause, although Wood would have to learn to play second.

Keep an eye out for Brandon Wood; it will be no surprise if he ends up in the Black and Yellow.

No comments: