By John Perrotto
Brandon Wood, the newest Pirate, seems to be the epitome of the “4A” player, someone too good to play at the Class AAA level but not good enough to succeed in the major leagues.
Wood hit .283 with a .350 on-base percentage and a .536 slugging percentage in 1,437 plate appearances with the Los Angeles Angels’ Class AAA Salt Lake farm club. The infielder was once considered the third-best prospect in baseball by Baseball America.
However, Wood’s performance in parts of five major-league seasons with the Angels was nothing short of dreadful. He hit .168 with a .197 OBP and a .259 slugging percentage in 474 plate appearances. That is bad-hitting pitcher territory, especially when his 153 strikeouts and 13 walks are also factored.
Despite a track record that would make him a 75-1 shot in the ninth race at The Meadows, the Pirates are taking the long shot bet that they can unlock the 26-year-old’s potential. They claimed Wood off waivers from Angels last Friday and he made his Pirates’ debut Monday night by going 1-for-4 with a game-winning two-run double in a 4-2 victory over the Washington Nationals at PNC Park.
There are two factors that the Pirates find attractive about Wood, one being his power potential. He hit 77 homers at Class AAA and even managed 11 among his 78 hits with the Angels.
Secondly, Wood is able to play at least an adequate shortstop and that is one of the weakest positions in the Pirates’ organization. The Pirates’ patience is wearing thin with erratic Ronny Cedeno. Class AAA Indianapolis Chase d’Arnaud is the Pirates’ lone shortstop prospect and his suspect range will likely co-sign him to either second base or a utility role in the long run.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle believes the best way to get Wood to reach his power potential at the major-league level is by playing him regularly. Hurdle won’t commit to playing Wood at one position but says the 26-year-old will be in the lineup on a near-daily basis while starting at all four infield spots.
“We’ll give him time in batter’s box and see if we can help him make a difference, reignite the swing,” Hurdle said. “That’s really what a player like him needs more than anything else.”
Wood agrees with that assessment.
“When I was in the major leagues with the Angels, I’d get maybe 30 or 40 at-bats on a regular basis and if I wasn’t hitting a home run every seven at-bats then people would be wondering what was wrong with me,” Wood said. “I understand why the Angels used me the way they did. They are a very successful organization that is always contending (in the American League West). They can’t always give players time to develop. That’s why I think this is the perfect situation for me. Clint has told me he’s going to play me and that’s all I can ask for. I really believe you’ll see different results if I play regularly and am able to be consistent in my routine and my approach.”
Time will tell but Wood made an impact in his Pirates’ debut. He lone hit was a two-run double during off John Lannan during a four-run fourth inning that helped rally the Pirates from a 2-0 deficit.
“John made a good pitch there,” Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. “I saw the replay and it was in a good spot. But Wood has power and he drove it into the gap. That was a good piece of hitting.”