Friday, April 22, 2011
Shiver me timbers, Wood's a Pirate
By Christina Kahrl
The Pirates claimed Brandon Wood on waivers today. While it isn't every day you'd wish Pittsburgh's 18-year run of futility on anyone, his need for a change of scenery seemed obvious enough after a .167/.198/.259 line scattered across parts of five different seasons with the Angels. David Schoenfield already delved into what went wrong with Wood earlier this week, and this is what subsequently happens to prospects with warts too big to ignore -- they get to head towards the bottom of the standings, ideally punch up their credentials and perhaps get their careers under way.
The challenge is going to be if Wood's fortunes will improve at all on Clint Hurdle's watch, because the Pirates' past acquisitions of other people's top prospects haven't worked out reliably well. Andy LaRoche and Lastings Milledge had both lauded among the best young hitters in baseball before resorting to Piracy, but both failed to turn any corners at the plate after their acquisitions, and both are already ex-Pirates.
Happily enough, ex-Yankee prospect Jose Tabata is already helping change this particular story, and Hurdle's track record with young hitters when he was managing the Rockies wasn't too shabby, as he presided over the establishment and breakthroughs of superstars like Matt Holliday and Troy Tulowitzki, as well as solid runs from Brad Hawpe and Garrett Atkins. You can fidget over the impact of altitude, but Hurdle's long work as a hitting coach might be useful in trying to get Wood ironed out at the plate. If not, practically speaking, it cost the Pirates nothing to find out if he just needed to get away from a parent organization that was never wild about his hack-happy approach.
The thing with Wood now is that he might be challenged to do something that may be out of his range, which is play shortstop as a regular for the first time since 2008. Skip "might," let's say he should be challenged to play short. As far as they go for interpretive purposes, his defensive numbers in the minors as a shortstop weren't good, reflecting scouts' concerns over his limited range. That said, he got good marks for his hands and he's always had the arm to make the play from the hole. The Pirates have nothing to lose by taking a look -- it isn't like they'd be risking Ronny Cedeno's shot at the Hall of Fame. If Wood pans out, they'll have reaped the benefit of the absence of expectations, and turned their weakness into a strength when it comes to player acquisition: when you're a bottom-feeder, you get to collect other people's junk, or in this case, recycling other people's prospects.
Christina Kahrl helped found Baseball Prospectus in 1996, is a member of the BBWAA and covers baseball for ESPN.com. You can follow her on Twitter.