After a poor 2008 season caused by an injured shoulder, 2009 turned out to be a coming back party. Wood grabbed the ball every fifth day and caused scouts to sing praises for his newfound pitch. After having a healthy season, it made Baseball America’s organizational prospect rankings seem a bit shortsighted. After getting roughed up in 2008 when he was the 21st ranked prospect for the Reds, he wasn’t ranked in 2009 and now he’s ranked seventh in 2010. Wood throws an 88 to 91 mph fastball, a plus-plus changeup – which is as good as it gets – a newly found cutter, and a mediocre curveball. Because he doesn’t have a dominating second offering, becoming a LOOGY (i.e. lefty specialist) isn’t possible. However, finesse lefties have known to stay around a long time – yes, I’m looking at you, Jamie Moyer – and he’s excellent at locating his pitches and changing speeds. Upside, number four or five starter, according to Baseball America and John Sickels prior to this season. Keith Law had him ranked as the Reds number sixth ranked prospect. Here’s how he’s done this year and in his career:
2010 Stats: 8.9 K/9 | 2.1 BB/9 | 98 IP | 3.12 ERA | 3.26 FIP | 1.08 WHIP | .8 Hr/9 | 7.6 H/9 | .298 BABIP | 43.1 GB% | 20.3 LD% | 33.3 FB% | 9.8 Hr/FB%
Career Stats: 8.4 K/9 | 3.6 BB/9 | 627 1/3 IP | 3.34 ERA | ~3.71 FIP | 1.22 WHIP | .7 Hr/9 | 7.4 H/9 | .286 BABIP | 41 GB% | 15.8 LD% | 40.4 FB% | 5.6 Hr/FB%
His command improvement that happened last year (2.8 BB/9 in 2009) has continued this year with an improved strikeout rate (7.2 K/9 in 2009) without the aid of a lucky BABIP. He has been hit fairly hard (20.3 LD%) and his home run rate is high to be too excited about his potential. Remember that he is playing in the PCL. Speaking of where he plays, his Home/Away splits are notable but expected because his home park is hitter-friendly. Thus, as most of you can assume, he pitches better on the road than at home. His left-handed batters versus right-handed batters split is worth mentioning. Lefties have hit .152 with one homer, six earned in 37 innings and posted a 1.13 ground-out-to-air-out ratio. Righties have hit .252 with eight homers and 28 earned runs in 61 innings and posted a 1.08 ground-out-to-air-out ratio. Fairly significant to note, but nothing dramatic and it’s an extremely small sample size.
Even as the MiLB dot com’s 2009 Double-A Player of the Year, Wood has continued to fly under the radar. This is probably because of his repertoire lacks dominating and drool worthy pitches. I want to call him sneaky good, and because he doesn’t have the hype-able skill-set (height, power pitches, several potential plus-pitches, etc.) he’ll probably never get talked about much. Will he be a serviceable major league pitcher? Possibly. Will he fail miserably? Potentially. He doesn’t have the ground-ball rate that I love and usually translates well to the majors, but I believe he could provide his major league team with more value than any fantasy baseball manager. Granted, that’s assuming it’s a 12 team league. In deeper leagues, I am thinking of an Aaron Cook, Hiroki Kuroda, or, reaching back a bit, Brad Radke. Meaning something along the lines of 7 to 7.5 K/9 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.30 WHIP during his prime. Maybe better, maybe worse. Nothing special, but combined with a solid middle reliever and those numbers are helpful.
In the 2007 draft, Arencibia was the second best catcher behind Matt Wieters due to his ability to hit for power and potentially average. His defense left something to be desired after his years at Tennessee, but he has worked extremely hard trying to stay as a catcher. Baseball America says his defense is now “solid.” He has a slightly above-average arm with decent receiving skills and calls a good game. An added benefit is that he’s bilingual and is a natural leader. He has good power but his swing is long, his hitting approach is flawed but natural and would work in the Blue Kays, I mean Jays, lineup since he swings for the fences and rarely works the count. This hitting approach finally caught up to him in 2009 as he floundered at Triple-A Las Vegas. I blame some of that on his .269 BABIP and some on his 114:24 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Is this year any different?
2010 Stats: .303/.353/.602 | 251 AB | 40 XBH | 17 Hr | 0/0 SB/CS | 56:20 K:BB | .331 BABIP | 32.1 GB% | 17.9 LD% | 50 FB%
Career Stats: .272/.313/.490 | 1455 AB | 178 XBH | 68 Hr | 0/1 SB/CS | 327:78 K:BB | .310 BABIP | 36.1 GB% | 16.7 LD% | 47 FB%
Actually, yes. Yes, this year is much different. His BABIP is high, and slightly higher than his career numbers. Matter of fact, add the .021 BABIP that he has over his career average to his 2009 season and you have a .290 BABIP that would help his slash line. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has improved this year, and with seven more walks he’ll have a career high. The power seems outrageous and a product of his home ballpark being a hitters’ park. Well, his Home/Away splits is, well, the opposite of Travis Wood. He hits better on the road (1.099 OPS) than at home (.823 OPS). This season he started out all right in April, then progressed into a cold May, and exploded this last month of June.
Here is what I wrote about him back in December from my Toronto Minor League Review, “Arencibia was considered the catcher of the future, but with the d’Arnaud acquisition and the signing of John Buck, that may be in question. His slash line is destroyed by a low batting average on balls in play (.269), albeit he hit a ton of fly balls (52.5%). The power is legit, the strikeouts are scary and the lack of walks is more of a turn off than Joan Rivers. Playing the Pacific Coast League may have inflated his numbers a wee bit, however, expect to see him in the majors at some point in early summer 2010. Keep expectations in check, but if you need a catcher, plug him in and see what he can do. It’s worth a chance over anyone not named Mauer, McCann, or Martinez.”
If all you heard was blah blah blah, improved strikeout-to-walk ratio, blah blah blah, power surge is lucky, blah blah blah, and is hot in June. Fair enough. What does this all mean? It means his stock has risen, he has rebounded nicely, and with only John Buck in his way, I could see Arencibia being called up in the near future (before September) and given a chance to play regularly. He could get 12 to 15 homers in 250 to 300 AB with a .260 average. As a catcher, you can do much worse. He probably won’t get that many at-bats, but he should be on your radars. He isn’t Carlos Santana, Buster Posey, Matt Wieters, or even Jesus Montero, maybe more of a Miguel Olivo or Mike Napoli.